Firing Line: Liz Field

Meetings, meetings and even more meetings have become routine for Liz Field in the first five months of her new role as chief executive of the Wealth Management Association.

Ms Field was appointed to the position at the beginning of September, replacing Tim May, who had stepped down after four years’ service.

She launched a strategic review of the body, and has since travelled across the UK to meet the body’s wealth manager members to ascertain “what keeps them awake at night”, and how the WMA can further support their firms, she said.

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An eagerness to understand other people is a likely consequence of Ms Field’s degree in psychology and Masters in occupational psychology. Of these qualifications she said: “They have helped me in my career – it helps you think from the other person’s perspective. I have always been interested in people.”

The WMA represents 109 wealth management and stockbroking firms that deal directly with private investors, and 77 companies which provide professional services to its members.

Member firms manage more than £650bn of wealth in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, according to the body, and employ an estimated 32,000 staff in more than 580 sites.

Of the RDR process, Ms Fields said it has not had the same effect on wealth managers as it has had on other sectors. Its implementation has been viewed positively by WMA members – many of whom already held level four, level six and in some cases level seven diploma qualification before RDR, she added.

One of the key challenges facing the association is Mifid II – the second iteration of the EU’s Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, which aims to increase the transparency whereby regulated firms disclose their costs and charges, and ensure investor protection.

“It is going to be a big piece of work for the WMA,” Ms Field said. “We need to go through every aspect of it. Our members will be getting involved, and guidance will be made available on what to expect.”

Ms Field added: “We still don’t know how some aspects of it will look, and we are spending a lot of time talking to the European Commission on what the plans may be.”

Regulation and the growth of technology will be big challenges for WMA members, according to Ms Field: “Compliance is a continuous issue, but there is a growing importance for financial firms to beware of cyber crime and ensuring that their clients’ details are fully protected.”

A positive change that the body is looking forward to is the Capital Market Union, which it is claimed would cut the cost of raising capital, notably for SMEs, and help reduce a ‘very high’ dependence on bank funding. Ms Fields said: “We want to be able to influence this in a positive way, and explore what sort of services should be included on behalf of our clients.”