The Association of IFAs' appearance in front of the Treasury Select Committee yesterday has already sparked calls from angry IFAs this morning, who feel MPs gave advisers' reputations a serious beating without knowing the realities of the job.
This take on the Select Committee’s tactics is correct, and it is possible to analyse yesterday's meeting based not on what is likely to be the outcome, but what MPs wanted to achieve there and then.
Comments from John McFall, Angela Eagle and Nigel Beard about commissions and mis-selling may have seemed cutting, but the reality, say commentators attending yesterday’s meeting, is the political "questioning" of AIFA’s Paul Smee, Amanda Davidson and Roger Saunders was a simple pantomime or Punch & Judy performance.
The Treasury Select Committee meeting was designed to draw in the consumer audience and make them take notice of the main players and their pre-prepared speeches, to show consumer just how prophetic and knowledgeable MPs can be. Questioning about funding, Berry Birch Noble’s company, structured products, commissions and IFA ethics was all designed to grab the headlines, and the TSC had a successful day based on today’s media coverage.
When it comes to action on any financial issue, the TSC does not have any real powers to make any changes so needs to grab the headlines if its role is to have any impact.
In the past, the TSC produced a damning report on the endowment mis-selling scandal, but the committee had no real power to do anything then. Smee and the team played their parts in the dramatics yesterday: they took the kicking which MPs wanted to inflict because as much as industry representatives are invited to give evidence, that is not really what happens in committee meetings.
What many advisers will also not be aware of is the points which Paul Smee and AIFA witnesses did successfully communicate about the prospects for workplace advice and the positive progress made on the depolarisation menu. In situations where members successfully communicated their message, MPs moved swiftly on to another issue which might catch the attention of journalists.
Threat of an OFT investigations - into funding deals the AIFA negotiated for intermediaries - are unlikely to come to anything and will probably be sorted through correspondence between the AIFA and committee. The suggestion of an investigation served its purpose, however, because it grabbed headlines.
Sources say one of John McFall’s tactics is to pick out obscure information from witnesses websites and then use it to try and throw people off guard early in proceedings, so it appears witnesses are then acting on the defensive.
Questioning was tough and there were issues at times - such as questions about the image or projected ethics of IFAs - which might have been valid and worthy of further consideration.
However, we - the industry - all know that many of the questions concerning the AIFA’s role in monitoring the industry do not match the AIFA’s work for IFAs. The AIFA is not there to monitor or challenge or condemn or regulate intermediaries. The AIFA was formed to support IFAs and give advisers a voice, and has done exactly that in its five year history.
Anyone interested in hearing Tuesday’s TSC proceedings - the oral evidence should be available through the Parliament Live archive in a few days time - should soon see the pattern to MPs’ declarations 'damning' declarations.
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