A service allowing advisory firms to 'sense check' whether they meet the requirements for independence has been launched.
The 'Independence Audit' has been developed by the Phil Billingham Partnership (PBP) in response to confusion among advisers - some of it caused by providers and perpetuated by compliance consultants - about whether they meet the definition.
Firms can select a full on-site audit at a cost of about £2,000 or a 'distance-based' service, conducted via email and over the phone, for about £500.
PBP will send firms a 'traffic light' result - red, amber or green dependent on how well they meet their description of themselves - with a full breakdown of PBP's findings and practical suggestions where necessary.
The Retail Distribution Review led to a number of new regulations for retail investment advisers, among them a new standard for independent advice. This included that IFAs must be able to consider a broader range of products.
However, what Billingham called "noise and misinformation" from some quarters has caused confusion among advisers. This includes the false belief that IFAs must consider every product for every client.
PBP director Susan Jordan said: "We have met with around 700 firms in the last few months at PFS [Personal Finance Society] events all around the UK. It is clear that there is more confusion within firms than is healthy. They need to plan where they are going in 2014, and know it's a safe option.
"We see these services as a ‘sense check' confirming where firms have got it right, and giving practical guidance where required. It may be that restricted is the right option for some. We will help clarify the choices firms have"
Phil Billingham (pictured) added: "A lot of the confusion is caused by noise from parts of the provider industry, who we know have their own agenda. It also seems to be the case that, unfortunately, some compliance consultants have over-complicated things. We want to simplify the process."
Advisers interested in finding out more about the service can telephone Susan Jordan on 01206 580733 or email her at [email protected]
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