Jeff Prestridge  

Review is no game changer

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

Financial advice has undergone great change since I came on the scene as a cub reporter at Money Management magazine in the late 1980s (oh, happy days).

On the whole, it has been change for the better, although there have been many mis-selling scandals along the way – and plenty of regulatory intervention.

Although some of you may disagree (fine with me), the biggest game changer for financial advice was the Retail Distribution Review of 2013.

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It required the advice industry to become more transparent in terms of charges and ended the dependency upon – and corrupting influence of – commission.

Just as importantly, it thrust a thick coat of professionalism on the industry, with qualifications and continuing professional development very much to the fore.

The result is that today we have a financial advice sector that is less sales-focused, more professional and, bar the odd aberration or skirmish with unregulated investments, very much fit for purpose.

It is better appreciated by the general public than ever before; even financial journalists, myself included, are far kinder towards the industry than they previously were (and before you ask, I am not mellowing with age, far from it).

Yet, it is not all good news.

Sadly, and correct me if you think I am wrong, the industry is not growing and it is not attracting new talent – certainly, not in sufficient quantity to register on my normally reliable radar.

Like newspaper journalism, it is a profession in gentle decline, full of qualified individuals getting longer in the tooth by the week.

Setting up in business as a standalone financial adviser requires courage, what with a phalanx of regulatory requirements to fulfil and onerous Financial Services Compensation Scheme billsto meet.

It is also only serving a fraction of the population’s financial needs.

Against this rather mixed backdrop, it is probably heartening to see that the dear old Financial Conduct Authority has decided to take a look at where we are with financial advice – and whether anything can be done to make financial advice more readily available.

According to the FCA’s executive director of strategy and competition, Christopher Woolard, it wants the industry to “deliver a range of good-quality, affordable advice and guidance services that meet consumer needs”.

As part of this, it is asking consumer groups, financial advice companies, trade associations and related businesses to have their say.

It all seems rather positive and I would urge you to feed into the process through the various stakeholder events that are being organised bythe regulator.

It has also called for input: your ideas on how financial advice can become more inclusive. Do have your say, even if it is an excuse to let off plenty of steam (it is cathartic).

Having absorbed the reaction so far to the review, it is quite obvious that any changes are going to be at best marginal; this review is not going to be a game changer like the RDR wasin 2013.