Opinion  

Regulators must read this... and act

Ashley Wassall

Then there are the FCA fees. After years of steady increases, advisers got a reprieve last year as the regulator corrected an ‘anomaly’ that ripped off the least risky firms which do not hold client money. This year the sector was hit with the largest fee increase of 10 per cent, to £75m.

It is crude maths, but I make that a total bill of £311m that has been confirmed in the past three months alone.

That is £28,272 for each of the 11,000 financial advice firms the FCA lists in its life and pensions and investments categories.

On top of all of this is the concern over insistent clients or claims of one sort or another. Recent Fos data suggests concerns over retrospective claims might be overblown, but advisers tell me that this is not what they have seen in practice.

They also express vitriol at the overbearing regulation that permeate their daily lives; the compliance burden which takes up valuable man hours and thus increases their cost of doing business. Again the regulator refutes most of the claims, but that is how advisers feel.

The truth is the sector feels like it is unduly burdened, particularly with fees, but also general regulation.

Representing a small amount of complaints each year, advisers feel they do not get deserved recognition for the valued service provided and are generally regarded with haughty disdain.

I have said before that the sector is overly negative - and undoubtedly that is true. Another story this morning points to increasing business levels and referrals and emphasises claims of a bright future in terms of demand.

But it is the supply side that concerns me. We already arguably have too few advisers to meet the demand coming down the line, so losing more - or even simply failing to encourage new blood to replace those retiring in a sector with an average age of 58 - cannot be allowed.

Policymakers that apparently believe as we do in the importance of advice, must show they are taking steps to address advisers’ very real concerns.

A moratorium on fees increases, a proper consultative review of FSCS levies, a stepping up of efforts to simplify compliance documentation, would all be a very positive start.

ashley.wassall@ft.com