When Investment Week was launched five and a half years ago in January 1995 we declared we were goin...
When Investment Week was launched five and a half years ago in January 1995 we declared we were going to be a "Garry Heath-free zone," a statement which raised a few eyebrows at the time and one which meant that particular individual wouldn't speak to our journalists for many months.
That declaration was made because we felt the representatives of the independent financial adviser sector, in the form of Nfifa, were not credible and worthy officers of that responsibility. We think the ultimate demise of Nfifa proved us to be correct and we have always extended our criticism to include IFA Promotion. It unfortunately is still in existence but it has at least made some efforts over the years, no matter how small, to do something for the IFA sector.
Given our criticism of these two organisations we surprised ourselves by given a cautious welcome to the formation of Aifa. Last week Aifa held its annual conference, an event we were pleased to be invited to attend, and an event which we believe shows the turn around in the status of the IFA market. We are unashamed in our support for Paul Smee of Aifa and his efforts to show the association is a credible and respectable vehicle for advisers.
The association now has around two thirds of all registered individuals as members which in itself is a good achievement but we believe it is a time for all of us to put aside any prejudices to Aifa's forerunners, put aside any failings the association may currently have and join up.
Membership is not a question of what the Aifa can do for you but what you, as a broker in conjunction with the association, can do together to raise the awareness of the professional standards of the independent sector.
From the conversations we have had with regulators, civil servants and politicians we can vouch for the fact that under Mr Smee's leadership the perception of IFAs has improved significantly over the last 12 months. It is still behind the perception of lawyers and accountants but it is catching up fast. With 100% membership and a united voice the standing of IFAs will be equal to those other professions.
In the US the definitive 2001 Jobs Rated Almanac has just been published by the Wall Street Journal group. This looks at 250 jobs and ranks them in terms of best and worst profession based on six criteria including income, stress and job security. This year commercial fishing was rated the worst job. Being a financial planner was rated as the best up from 17th position last year. In the UK, financial planning would be lucky to come in the top 20, but with a united IFA market in Aifa it can achieve the standing it has in the US.
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