Dear independent financial advisers, you know I admire you immensely. You are personable, professional and passionate to a tee. A bit like financial journalists (ha, ha).
Irrespective of what others may think (horrible regulators for example), I believe you are an invaluable cog in the personal finance wheel that turns savings into long-term wealth and ultimately financial security in retirement.
Most people will benefit from your services even though there is always the odd rogue adviser who spoils the financial party and the punishing fees that have put advice out of the clutches of many hardworking people (boos all round).
Robo advice is all well and good, but it is both impersonal and passionless.
Yet for all the moves made in recent years to improve the standing of financial advisers through RDR and the requirement for greater qualifications, it seems as if the adviser community continues to suffer terribly from a sense of collective insecurity.
Maybe, because of relentless put-downs by regulators, many of you do not have the sense of worth your role warrants. One adviser I spoke to recently admitted that a "lack of self-worth" is something she battles with day in, day out. In her heart of hearts, she knows she does a fantastic job, but there are times when she feels financial advisers unfairly get bad press from individual clients and often hostile media and regulator. Surveys, she says, point to financial advice as the country’s least trusted profession (less trustworthy than even journalism).
Matters are not helped by the fact that advising can be a lonely occupation. Apart from the odd conference and CPD training day, you are primarily on your own. It can fuel doubt and eat away at your self-confidence.
It is this lack of self-worth that must in part explain why some of you are now resorting to embellishing your financial CVs in order to big yourselves up before clients – new and old. In a nutshell, you are boasting qualifications you do not possess.
Consumer organisation Which? has conducted two pieces of research on this issue this year. They make for troubling reading, irrespective of what you may think about Which? and its motivations.
In February, it carried out an investigation into adviser accreditations listed on website unbiased.co.uk – a search engine that many people use when looking for an adviser to help them with their finances and a directory that can provide listed advisers with a valuable stream of new business.
Scrutinising the details of advisers located in 10 postcodes, it reported that of the 92 firms classified as Cisi (Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments) accredited by Unbiased, only 36 were on the official list. In other words, 56 of the firms were stretching the truth, purporting to be Premier League qualified when really they had not left the First League.