According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “Professionalism” is the combination of all the qualities that are connected with trained and skilled people. So raising examination levels must be part of the answer.

Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) has also been part of the answer in that it has actually required IFA firms to look at how they do business and then make any changes to improve the customer experience. I felt that my own 1 on 1 with the FSA in September 2008 was quality business advice.

I felt I had had an improved customer experience with them! I’m almost thinking that a 3 yearly 1 on 1 with the FSA for small firms would be another part of the answer to becoming more professional assuming that the cost is kept at 2008 prices, £0.

If we want the kudos of being associated with other professions then IFAs have got to walk the walk. If that means taking exams, doing quality Continual Professional Development (CPD), developing inter personal skills, running a compliant business, being a great adviser, treating your clients like royalty and so on then so be it.

The end goal for IFAs surely has to be dealing with clients who have sufficient income, assets or liabilities such that they need a more sophisticated level of advice and those clients will be willing to see the value of paying for it. I think that would reduce my own client bank from 780 clients to 156.

That leaves what we might call “bread and butter” business which might well be best served by “Money Guidance”, although Money Guidance should have restrictions on types and limits advice it can provide, thus creating an effective advice type filter for members of the public.

My guess here is that the FSA might do well to listen hard to the likes of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Which and Martin Lewis on this subject in order that they create something where there is an actual public need. Even consider making Money Guidance a Charity like CAB.

Aged 38, owner managed IFA business of 1 adviser and 1 para planner/admin, currently reading AF3 pension planning (page 7 of 66 after two weeks!!) and quietly confident about the future of small IFA firms (or what ever we’ll be called then).