The rich tapestry of highs and lows we as advisers enjoy has never ended and never will, writes Keith Churchouse. Here he shares his thoughts on the recent FCA Dear CEO letter and above all urges his peers to 'stick to their knitting'
It can be difficult for advisers to cut through the ‘noise' that is created by opinion on the way you run your business, what you should charge, who you should focus on as a group, how qualified you should be; you get the picture.
In the unlikely event that you didn't, our regulator has issued a ‘Dear CEO' letter, which has created significant noise on social media about its view of the work and outcomes we achieve.
Within the same week, and as a contrast, the Personal Finance Society confirmed that over 15 years, 7,000 advisers have achieved Chartered status (congratulations to all involved), with the profession's education programme improving standards, as we all know.
Correlating this proud achievement with the text from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) seems a difficult match. Perhaps the proposed two-year thematic plan will show the positive positions occurring across the UK and it will be interesting to see if there are any real revelations.
In comparison, the themed initiative from the Financial Services Authority all those years ago (starting around March 2008) of 'treating customers fairly' was simple, and in my opinion, was always a good one. We still maintain a TCF record that is updated monthly for the team. This is still a principle (6) within the FCA's Principles for Business (PRIN) which states that ‘a firm must pay due regard to the interests of its customers and treat them fairly'.
Other principles also apply to this area of business behaviour, which is also now applicable to all financial services personnel post-SMCR.
However, with the recent storm over suggested poor practice from advisers, this message seems to have been lost under the many layers of changing regulation we have seen in recent years.
Maintaining an open mind to the positives that can be achieved is usually worthwhile, and it is interesting to note how views on a single topic (quite instantaneously on social media forums) can vary so significantly dependent on the age or location of the individual posting their views and counter-views, sometimes passionately.
This noise, against the backdrop of the UK's crazy political position over the last few years, and a global economic outlook that it is slowing down (although President Trump with his election looming I am sure will do all he can to keep the US markets buoyant, including trade deals with China) can sometimes mean that individuals can be encouraged away from a position or ethic that has usually worked for them or their business.
Looking back does not generally encourage forward momentum but may guide your approach. The ‘past performance is not a guarantee of future performance' analogy springs to mind, and it should. Embracing changes for the good is always welcome; however, understanding what that means is often not clear.
And just when you thought you had it all clear, the annual debacle - indeed lottery - of the year's professional indemnity insurance renewal kicks off, and it appears coupled in time for a new invoice demand to be issued by the FCA for a supplementary Financial Services Compensation Scheme levy to provide a combined squeeze on resources.
The rich tapestry of highs and lows we as advisers enjoy has never ended and never will, and this shows in part the resilience that our profession demonstrates and is why we can help our clients along life's changing pathway. We have the honour of seeing all life through our profession and this experience remains invaluable.
However you tackle the period ahead, and whatever noise you receive from your chosen sources, keep true to your clients, their needs and your ethics. As the saying goes, they will ‘stick to their knitting' - you stick to yours!
Keith Churchouse is a Chartered financial planner and director at Chapters Financial
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