After all the doom and gloom of recent months, last week's annual PIMS conference on the Oriana revealed the tide is turning and attitudes towards industry change are much more positive about prospects for the future.
It would not be unfair to say the last few years have been the biggest threatened change to the financial services industry in its long history. For quite a while, this change was far from welcome as each new nugget of reform imposed either more red tape and paperwork for intermediaries or the prospect of lower revenue.
It's recognised that if you read the trade and national press, the message you will get is everything is bad because the reality is it tends to be bad news rather than good news which sells newspapers.
But after almost four years of long faces and negative sentiment about the prospects for change, the industry seems to be brushing off its opposition to all things new and embracing change as a positive business challenge to shout about.
Admittedly, intermediary and provider reps may have been drinking a lot of happy juice on the infamous booze cruise, but there is now a shift in focus and willingness to tackle whatever problems might be thrown in their direction with a smile rather than a grimace.
Instead of postulating solely about the errors of pending regulation, this year’s conference sought to reassure IFAs and revealed the market is actively working to tackle the lack of apparent consumer trust in financial services.
It’s a small shift in perspective, but ignoring the negatives and focussing on the positive potential for adviser businesses suggests financial services companies do have the drive this industry needs to relaunch its image.
It seems the image of the ‘fiftysomething’ grumbling IFA afraid of change is dead, even though nothing has actually changed in terms of the industry’s demographic make-up. Rather than sit back and wait for regulators to stomp all over their business, intermediaries have rediscovered their love for the job of helping clients manage their finances.
What the industry needs to do now is harness that confidence as part of a major branding exercise and show consumers how to use all this reform to their own financial advantage. The process is going to be difficult given the continuing pressure on firms from regulatory reform. However, advisers have waited long enough to prove the widespread image of mis-selling IFAs is unjustified.
Do you agree with this sentiment? Is the attitude of intermediaries changing? What is the 'real' image of today's IFA?
If you have any comments you would like to add to this or any other issue, either email the editor or post your thoughts on the IFAonline discussion board.
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