Is the financial services sector as disjointed as some suggest? Not according to PFS chief executive Keith Richards, who here explains why he believes a new initiative can result in greater trust among the public...
Further evidence of the new, post-RDR, collaborative attitude across the financial services sector came in the form of the new 'united profession' working group - drawing together 12 of the key representative organisations from across the industry and forming them into one working group.
The objective: to identify opportunities for the key professional and trade representative bodies in the financial services sector to work more collaboratively for the greater good of the industry and public alike.
The inaugural meeting has just been hosted by the Personal Finance Society at its London offices, where it welcomed 11 other professional and trade bodies - including the Association of British Insurers, Association of Professional Financial Advisers, Institute of Financial Planning and Investment Management Association - to discuss their respective objectives, share market insight and consider a range of potential joint initiatives for the future.
As the regulator seeks to drive culture change and create better customer outcomes, so too do the component parts that form it, many of whom were represented at the inaugural meeting.
Among the topics discussed were rising consumer expectations and needs, the savings gap and the unintended consequences of regulation on both the industry and the public at large.
All agreed that the fragmentation that often blights the sector must be eradicated, as it ultimately dis-serves both the public and fuels mistrust. By harnessing the untapped potential of working collaboratively, the group believes that greater trust can be achieved and create an image of professionalism and respect in the post-RDR landscape.
Whilst each organisation involved will have different and sometimes opposing objectives, the willingness amongst the group to be more united was encouraging and can only lead to better outcomes for all.
As a sector, we face a number of common challenges and opportunities, so it makes good sense to support each other wherever possible and better understand where potential conflict can be avoided.
The group agreed to begin by looking at ways in which they could all provide support to current campaigns such as the Institute of Financial Planning's 'financial planning week', APFA's lobbying of local councils on the provision of long-term care and Personal Finance Society's 'consumer confidence campaign' to name but a few.
It is expected that this will help to avoid any dilution of effectiveness through duplication, which has often been the case in the past.
Interestingly, the group met ahead of the recent challenge issued by FCA chief, Martin Wheatley, who threw down the gauntlet to the sector by saying it only has: "The narrowest of windows in which to make the cultural changes stick, before memories of the financial crisis fade."
That aim is a common one and he will doubtless be encouraged by initiatives such as this, where the industry is uniting in pursuit of common goals and objectives. This new group is a tangible sign that the industry itself, is as keen as the regulator, to ensure better outcomes for the public.
The next meeting is in the process of being planned to take place in June. However, the new networking links formed at the first get-together will doubtless see some good work developed in the interim, thanks to the greater alignment that has resulted.
The unified determination exhibited by all who attended to work together to produce better outcomes was a positive step forward. Other trade bodies are expected to join the forum as it gains momentum and the aim is for it to convene at least two or three times a year from here onwards.
Keith Richards is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society
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