Opinion  

Don’t panic, advice will prosper in a changing world

Ashley Wassall

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

In much the same way as the multiverse-traversing dolphins in Douglas Adam’s seminal work, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I am imminently to depart the world of financial services journalism for an alternative dimension writing about business in a broader sense.

There are two primary differences; the first being that I will not be performing a double-backward somersault through a hoop while whistling the Star Spangled Banner.

The second is that I am not leaving ahead of the impending annihilation of this world at the hands of malevolent officialdom. (Although, those among you that fear the apparent creeping “regulationism” at the FCA may well see a parallel.)

In fact, for financial advice the future is bright indeed.

In my four-and-a-bit years as editor of FTAdviser - and five covering the sector at the Financial Times - I have seen the lead up to and eventual implementation of the RDR, and, among a raft of other legislative changes, watched first-hand the obliteration of all pension restrictions.

These two totemic policy changes will be remembered as defining moments for regulated advice and financial services more generally.

Contrary to popular predictions, the first of these did not hasten the end of life as we know it. The second is still an unknown quantity, but immensely popular and, on balance, I’d say right. People should be able to access their money; pitiful savings rates, the real scandal of retirement provision, should be improved by greater simplicity and fewer barriers.

For advisers, the truth is that a previously poor reputation is being greatly enhanced by a drive to professionalism, while the passing of responsibility for income in retirement is increasing demand for expert support.

Opportunities abound. I’ve seen the work that advisers do and, for many, the support you provide is invaluable - and lucrative. Clients in the know understand that the fees they pay are, in the same way as in other professional sectors such as law and accountancy, justified and will usually more than pay for themselves in one way or another.

Among the challenges to realise the industry’s potential is to ensure this message is communicated more widely. As Baroness Altmann said yesterday (18 June) during her maiden speech to the Lords, it is also to ensure those with less complex needs can access an affordable alternative to full-on, full service engagement.

It’s been recognised by many a commentator, but there is a gap in provision for mainstream clients that is not the result of a lack of innovative capacity, but sclerotic regulation which forces a degree of liability most are uncomfortable to take without the security of an exhaustive process.