Simon Chamberlain, chief executive of Succession Advisory Services, says if anyone had mentioned IFA consolidation in early 2009, it was only as an unintended consequence of the credit crunch...
Today, the concept of consolidation is more widely accepted - but many in the industry have yet to understand the detail.
With vague hopes and ideas - including, sadly, far too much emphasis on asset stripping and equating prices crudely to multiples of recurring income - few have fully grasped the concept.
Without an end-to-end process that brings all the component parts together; without the certainty of sufficient capital backing to guarantee the delivery of consolidation activity and, crucially, without always putting the client first, the cause is lost before it begins.
The marketplace today is far too sophisticated to get away with simply trying to bang businesses together. It is now about doing the right job for clients, and creating profitable advisers and businesses that build real value.
RDR, on the other hand, was at the forefront of everyone's mind. Even those - and there remain far too many - with their head in the sand.
While some were wondering how much they could avoid, others saw RDR as the final nail in the coffin. After all, if you haven't embraced platform technology (i.e. wrap) and believe client value is something they deliver for you, you would struggle with the concept.
For us, RDR finishes the job started by CP121. It was an inevitably and we are excited about the opportunities it provides.
I hope that IFAs have been seriously considering the impact of RDR because 2009 has been a year for fundamental strategic decisions - to stay or go. If businesses see RDR as an opportunity, they have three years to work towards the goals and deadlines, looking at their client base, income, the job of re-engineering the business.
Going forward there will be two valid business models - transactional and advice. Too many transactionally-based businesses think they can survive the regulations by calling themselves fee-based; but the regulator could not have made it clearer that clients should not be paying for products disguised as advice.
But if businesses don't believe they can re-engineer their business to become RDR-compliant, they need to decide quickly that their best option is to go, for they have limited time to create sufficient value in their business and secure a worthwhile sale.
For those who are yet to start the detailed analysis - call it financial planning if you will - to make the stay/go decision, I strongly recommend that you make this your primary objective for the New Year before events beyond your control make the decision for you.
I can't review 2009 without commenting on the economic conditions. What a year to be seeking investors for a new business you may be thinking! Just make sure you have a well-articulated business plan, a strong reputation for delivery, and approach the right partners.
The current economic conditions have proved that properly-engaged clients are more loyal. Clients with a financial plan that focuses on achieving an objective are more reliant on their adviser than those whose relationship with the adviser is largely based on the performance of the products sold (what performance?).
One unintended consequence of the RDR has been the impact on product providers. Many will be wondering where they fit now and possibly considering setting up their own distribution channel in an attempt to protect their position and ensure their survival. Might the future of direct sales forces lie in meeting the needs of clients who can't afford advice?
Finally, we end the year with a Pre-Budget Report that will ensure advisers are busier than ever going into the New Year, as worried clients looking for advice - not product - seek to protect themselves from the worst of changes.
It's not as harsh as it could be given the state of the economy and the funds required to get the country out of debt, but its focus on closing tax loopholes - and quickly - to prevent individuals and businesses from finding alternative solutions will prove a real challenge for advisers.
Simon Chamberlain is chief executive and co-founder of Succession Advisory Services
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