The industry needs to pull together and consider the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on advice firms and their staff, Keith Richards has said, as he pledged the Personal Finance Society would look to improve adviser wellbeing.
Speaking at the Intergen 2020 conference, Mr Richards said the professional body was looking at how best to support advisers’ wellbeing in what could be a “lonely” industry.
He said: “A lot of advisers are unsung heroes and are passionate about the role they play in improving lives.
“Especially in the pandemic, advisers have been supporting clients in a way that is over and above their role and there are a lot of really good practice examples where financial planners have been giving free guidance and help throughout the crisis.”
But Mr Richards said this sometimes came at the expense of financial planners’ own wellbeing as while they worked to provide certainty and comfort to their clients, there was “no one sitting behind the financial planner to give them comfort and certainty”.
He added: “In some sectors, it is made up of a few large corporate entities with HR departments and support. But the financial planning world has more than 5,000 largely small firms so it can be a lonely place.
“It is an area that certainly occupies our time. Collectively, we need to consider how Covid could impact firms.
“We are in an unprecedented period, and period of uncertainty [...] so we are looking at how best to support them.”
Mr Richards was discussing the state of the advice market with the editor of Financial Adviser, Simoney Kyriakou.
Ms Kyriakou said she had been “disappointed” to see the regulator’s latest proposals for increased fees on new firms under the new SMCR rules and an extra levy from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme in what was already a difficult year.
When asked how the PFS could help the industry move towards a “fairer and more attractive profession”, Mr Richards said the sector needed to continue to “mount pressure” on the government to instigate a “proper reform of the whole system”.
Mr Richards said: “At the start of this year, over 3,000 templates to write to MPs were taken from our website. And while a lot of advisers felt it wasn’t going to do anything, it has.
“More MPs have had letters about this and are starting to talk about it, the Treasury select committee has started to talk about it and even challenged the new chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, so there is some progress.”
The FCA has proposed a shake up of how the compensation scheme was funded which would see firms of a “riskier” nature paying more into the lifeboat fund.
But Mr Richards said this was just “kicking the can down the road”. He said: “Changing who pays different amounts doesn’t take the issue away that it’s going to increase every year.
“We need to call on the government for a proper root and branch review of the system.”