The Playpen met for lunch as they do every first Monday of the month to discuss a question posed to us by Paul Bradshaw- serial entrepreneur and the inventor (according to Alan Smith) of the £50,000 pa PEP.
Bill Whitehead (late)
Stephen Cohen (late)
Mark Scantlebury (aka Nigel) late
Jennifer Kreser (please note ” Kreser”)
At the outset we took a vote; the majority of the room believed that truly independent advice could be sourced – at the end of the discussion, this position had changed.
The matter that seemed to sway opinion most was that of Regulation, specifically the point of Regulation in this context. Alan Smith made the excellent point that independent advice did not add up to good advice and Tony Woodhead pointed out that the FSA had more or less accepted that concepts such as “best advice” and “whole of market” were chimeras disappearing over the horizon when tight definition was required.
Indeed there seemed to be a generally held view that you were more likely to get independent advice at the pub than from an adviser and those best placed to offer financial advice (trustees and employers) were precluded from doing so by regulation.
A number of derogatory comments were made about the move among IFAs to become discretionary wealth managers, those in the party who had sold funds to IFAs (Tony W and Ben) suggested that most fund advice was distorted by factors as random as commission and the attendance of the last salesman before the fund selection exercise.
In trying for a definition of a truly independent financial adviser, we came up against the problem that everyone’s definition was different. Someone suggested that the answer to this question was so subjective as to really only be relevent to the person who had the opinion. This seemed to accord with the view that no Regulator could properly define let alone enforce truly independent financial advice.
This line of thinking led to an interesting discussion on generalist and specialist advisers. One school of thought suggested that super-advisers were forming that could provide one stop shopping for the consumer. The other suggested that the field of advice was now sufficiently diverse and complex that advisers would become specialist and that new networks would form allowing consumers to take joined up advice from a number of different sources.
Certainly there was little confidence that one adviser could manage all aspects of a client’s financial affairs and offer whole of market solutions in each.
An interesting discussion ensued relating to unauthorised advice, perhaps prompted by our venue. An interesting observation was made that most financial advice was offered in the pub and other social areas. This led to a consideration of the new financial portals run by journalists like Martyn Lewis.
In truth, hard as we looked , nobody could find a truly independent financial adviser. This may have been because he or she was busy working rather than jawing on. Indeed Kay Ingram of LEBC has , with some justification put herself forward and we trust Paul will consider her as our candidate – Kaye reminds us that she is far too busy assisting clients to trouble us but we hope, should her candidature prove successful that she will receive said bottle at next months event.