Advisers must stick together in order to gain trust from consumers, writes Lee Travis, chief executive at the New Model Business Academy...
Consumer research evidences that, across the board, financial services are viewed with suspicion and a lack of trust. We need to unite if we are to stand a chance of this changing. Winning the trust of the public can only be achieved interdependently as a collective, united in the cause for just recognition, not as a sector critically vocal of one another.
Wasn’t building consumer confidence one of the primary drivers of the Retail Distribution Review (RDR)? So why now, a year after its implementation, does research from unbiased.co.uk suggest that only one in five people has sought advice from an adviser during the past five years? What is stopping consumers from placing their trust fully in advisers?
Perhaps it could be due to a lack of awareness. Indeed, a year before the RDR, research from Deloitte suggested 84% of consumers were not even aware of the changing regulation, let alone filled with confidence as a result. If the regulator will not effectively spread the word of all the good work being done, we have to be proactive and take things into our own hands.
Why we should all back the PFS campaign to resurrect consumer confidence in advice
With this in mind, the Personal Finance Society’s (PFS) Consumer Confidence Campaign is an ideal catalyst for us all to back.
Keith Richards, chief executive of the PFS, and the man driving the campaign, believes the lack of trust among consumers can mainly be attributed to other advisers.
“Some are happy to go public in deriding their peers on anecdotal evidence of churning, mis-selling or other misdemeanours, with few able to offer any actual evidence,” he says.
The campaign calls for advisers to “unite behind professionalism”, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. At the moment, the advisory community appears to be fragmented and the minority seems more interested in sideswiping and back-biting than joining to speak with one, positive voice. I use the word ‘appears’ deliberately, as I think this is a case of the squeaky wheels getting the most grease.
In other words, those who are vocal in their criticism are those who tend to receive the most publicity. Advisers who are part of the ‘silent majority’ that generally holds a more positive outlook on the sector may be more reluctant to get involved in online playground antics, thankfully. Let’s not forget this is in the public domain and does not paint us in the best light.
However, the significant achievements and positive changes made by the advisory community as a consequence of the RDR have created the beginnings of a real wave of opportunity to increase awareness, improve consumer perceptions and continue to build trust in our profession. This is a wave we all need to ride and the time is now to start shouting about all that we achieve to instil positivity into the masses.
For our sector to survive long term, a career within it must also be more attractive to young talent. It is not just within the industry where this needs to happen but also further afield, to help educate the next generation about financial advice – both in seeking it out and considering it as a career move.
According to the Financial Ombudsman Service, only 1% of complaints received throughout financial services as a whole are about advisers. We have a lot to be proud of and we need to create some solidarity so we can start getting the message out to the general public in one strong voice.
So, if you are one of the silent majority, how can you start to make yourself heard? Firstly, I would recommend signing up to the Consumer Confidence Campaign.
‘Strength in numbers’ and ‘together we are stronger’ may sound cliché but they are very fitting in this context. The more people backing this campaign, the more empowered it will become.
It is only through uniting to change the public perception of all the hard work that has been done that things will get better, instead of pulling each other down.
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