I recently heard about an adviser who has called it quits and is leaving the profession.

    The reason?

    He was totally fed up with the barrage of regulation. For him, the fun had finally left the building.

    I get it.

    If you’re feeling a bit jaded and ready to throw in the towel because of regulation fatigue, I’d like to give you some hope. That might take a paragraph or two, so stick with me.

    The pain

    FCA regulation can feel over the top and confusing.

    I’ve always had some sympathy for the FCA, and have argued on its behalf at times. If you were in their shoes, you’d have no choice but to create regulations for the lowest common denominator. They’re the risky ones.

    That inevitably means that advisers like you (who are not the risky ones) get caught up in a web of crap that mostly doesn’t apply.

    As I say to many of my independently-owned financial planning firm clients: “You don’t have a compliance problem.”

    In poor quality firms, it’s seen as a problem because they’re trying to back-fill the compliance to fit their advice.

    In proper client-focused financial planning firms, none of that need happen because the advice is right for the client from the get-go.

    Compliance firms are hamstrung too

    There are some good compliance firms out there, but arguably they’re hamstrung too by the nature of their work.

    They’ve got zero interest in finding creative and client-friendly ways to communicate an adviser’s recommendations without using letters and written reports.

    While I’m sympathetic to their situation, it’s not getting us anywhere as a profession.

    The solutions are going to have to come from advisers and planners themselves.

    Back in 2019 when we were allowed to go to conferences, Stephen Jones, chief executive of Cooper Parry Wealth, presented at the NextGen Planners conference in Manchester.

    His topic?

    How to give advice in a one-page financial plan.

    As he said on the day: “It’s an A3 page, and it’s double-sided.” But it’s a giant leap forward.

    They’d used infographics, charts, and bullet points to convey the keys to the client’s strategy and recommendations. No more written reports.

    Hallelujah.

    Most firms are still thinking of ways to write shorter reports. But even short reports suck if you’re a client.

    I applaud the Cooper Parry approach. It’s much more client-friendly.

    It’s not just us

    I was talking to someone at a financial services awards dinner years ago.

    Apparently, one of their friends who works in the lino flooring industry was attending a black tie awards dinner (yes, there are awards dinners for lino flooring people). Guess what everyone at that event was moaning about?

    Over-regulation of the lino flooring industry.

    Who’d a thunk it?

    If you put your mind to it, you can think of plenty of other noble professions that get it worse than we do.

    Imagine being in the police force, working in healthcare as a doctor or nurse, or in education as part of the teaching profession. Not only are you highly regulated, but you’re totally politicised as well.

    There are some positives – really 

    If you can snap yourself out of your funk for a minute, there really are some opportunities to be had here.

    Firstly, if you consider compliance and regulation a barrier to entry, then guess what? Any new potential entrants need to hurdle that barrier. You’ve already done it.

    Secondly, even if you are feeling like compliance is a total headache, imagine what it’s like for the advisers and businesses who are not as client-focused as you.

    When you run a genuine financial planning firm that has one objective – to give the best advice possible to clients (regardless of whether that involves a product sale) – there are just not that many compliance issues to resolve:

    • You know the client’s goals because that’s what you focus on at every step of the process. Helping clients achieve their life goals is why you exist.
    • Your investment proposition is of the highest quality and lowest cost you can build for your clients; because you work for them and get paid by them. You don't need subsidy and support from life insurance companies or fund managers. If you want a holiday to the Caribbean, you pay for it yourself.

    Thirdly, true entrepreneurs solve problems for their target clients.

    If you can be the firm that finds the best and simplest way through the regulatory minefield and can communicate in a client-friendly way, you will carve yourself a competitive advantage.

    Let everyone else ‘written report’ themselves to death.

    What about the competition?

    I know some advisers get all het up about some of the bigger financial services brands that just don’t seem to play by the same rules. I’ll grant you, it’s more than frustrating, it’s just plain wrong.

    But hear me loud and clear; their time is coming.

    Change always occurs more slowly than we’d like, but it happens nonetheless.

    Any brand that isn't acting in clients' best interests will inevitably find itself in the media and/or regulatory spotlight. And once that scrutiny starts, it doesn’t stop.

    It might take you 20 years to be proved right, but don’t let that stop you now. Stick to your guns and just stay focused on you and your business.

    As my old ski instructor Emma Cairns of Element Ski School once told me: “Compare and despair.”

    As one of her ski racing friends had told her: “When I focus on my competitors I get bitter. When I focus on myself I get better.”

    Focus on improving yourself and your business a little at a time, day by day.

    Forget compliance (as best you can). It’s not the main game.

    Just run a brilliant, client-focused business.

    Let me know how you go.

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