It has been such a hectic start to 2008 as I have spent a lot of time travelling around the country talking to IFAs, and it has taken me until now - half way through February - to write my first blog for IFAonline this year.
Most of the meetings with advisers have been roundtable sessions to discuss topical issues and we have talked about a range of subjects including retirement planning, the transfer market, SIPPs and Personal Accounts.
The usual format is for me to do the introductions and to get the ball rolling. I’ve found the conversation gains momentum very quickly and advisers feel so passionately about the topics that I often have to manage the time tightly to ensure we are able to cover all the necessary subjects in the time allocated.
Not surprisingly, the subjects bothering advisers are generally the same wherever they are in the UK and it is useful to be in at the coalface finding out the real issues.
The beauty of discussion sessions is that it really draws on adviser experiences. Occasionally we get to discuss real cases - names removed of course – which I doubt very much would happen if we chose a Powerpoint presentation format.
In terms of adviser business, although we are encountering difficult economic times, I have been encouraged by the number of IFA firms who have had a busy start to 2008.
Some of this has been due to addressing investor’s fears concerning markets, but much of it seems to be new business.
Indeed ongoing feedback from advisers maintains that there continues to be positive investor sentiment from A Day, nearly two years ago.
This is good news, particularly if people are realising that they will need to save for their retirement and that to do so they need financial advice.
What has really been noticeable though is that more advisers are doing professional exams. In addition, more seem to be moving to a fee-based structure and more are working with solicitors and accountants. Is this as a result of the RDR or in spite of it? I think the latter!
We are now at that point where the FSA is considering the initial responses to the RDR, which I understand they received around 800 to 900 responses to, with a view to the first consultation paper being published around April.
The seeds were already sown a number of years ago, and whatever ultimately emerges is likely to be in line with the general consensus and the FSA recommendations; higher qualifications, customer agreed remuneration and greater professionalism for advisers.
Most of the RDR recommendations have been welcomed but I think that a lot of it would have happened anyway regardless of the consultation.
Perhaps there should have been more focus on specifics - evolution rather than revolution- rather than trying to change everything in one go!
In any event, we now have a couple of months to wait until the first consultation paper. In the meantime, there will no doubt be all sorts of research speculating on the RDR for us to digest, until we find out what happens next.
Mike Morrison is pensions strategy manager at Winterthur
The views expressed in this article are those of its author and do not necessarily represent those of the company he represents, IFAonline or any other Incisive Media affiliated organisation.IFAonline
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