If you want to improve reputation, you need to do reputable things and make sure that your reputation is not owned by someone else who can dictate what people should think of you. That is the philosophy which lies behind the case for a professional body for financial advisers and planners, which I set out last month.
To the extent that you do disreputable things, the likelihood of someone other than yourself becoming recognised as the authoritative spokesman on your reputation grows.
For example, if you mis-sell or churn to the detriment of clients, you can expect the FSA or the press to have something to say on the subject – and their comments will be recognised as true.
So the case for a professional body, and setting it up, are only the first steps. The crucial test will be what it does to earn more respect.
What I plan to do over the next few months is to look at some of the principal step changes the industry should help this professional body to achieve.
Why step changes? Because the place we’re in is not a good one and we want to be in a better one. To do that, we need to change.
For starters, are we satisfied that most advisers have only passed the Fpc?
When we campaigned in the late 1980s and early 1990s for a minimum level qualification, it was to get every adviser up to a standard higher than zero. It was a big exercise – and full marks to Fimbra, Pia, the Lia, the Cii and others who made this possible.
But, as Sofa recognised in 1992, the goal is fully professional status and for that the Fpc just will not do.
So why not take a leaf out of the book of the established professions and raise the level for new entrants, from 2007 (the anniversary of Fpc becoming compulsory under Pia rules)?
My suggestion is that all new entrants should be at diploma level from October next year and we should expect them to be chartered financial planners five years from induction.
If the industry and the professional body adopted this standard, we would transform the profession in a generation.
What do you think?
John Ellis is group public affairs director at the Chartered Insurance Institute.
The views expressed are those of the author and not those of the organisation he represents.IFAonline
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