A timely conversation
It's been one of those weeks when a number of themes or thoughts or focuses have all come together, reminding me of why it is that we've been working so hard to build a valid path for IFAs in today's screwy, regulated-to-the-brink-of-existence world.
Firstly, I - finally - finished off the 2019 User Guide and supporting due-diligence materials for the (now) eight-year-old ValidPath Investment Proposition. I don't know of any other Network which demonstrates this kind of commitment, or which underpins it with such a clear set of beliefs and values, or which works as hard at integrating it into external due-diligence systems, or which invests heavily in extending the same ethos to robo-advice. Or, for that matter, does any of these things without expecting to get paid for it.
Secondly, enmeshed as I am deeply within the mind-numbing superfluity of SM&CR, I realised afresh just how horrible this is all going to be for smaller, directly-authorised firms. Indeed, the conviction is forming that this will represent the death-knell for many, coming hot on the heels of the bureaucratic overkill of MiFID II. Mercifully, ValidPath Members are protected from this nonsense.
Thirdly, I had been updating a webpage in our 'Business Development' area which lists all the things we do, at ValidPath, so that our Members don't have to. It's a list that just keeps getting longer and longer. It forms a useful antidote for anyone who, even momentarily, dallies with the insanity of Direct Authorisation.
Fourthly, I renewed my Volvo warranty. The car is five years old now, and parts tend to be a little pricey. And so, as perhaps one might expect, is the branded 'Volvo' warranty, but it does cover everything. My inner skinflint took over, getting me to look around at alternatives. Wow! (I thought) I can save myself £200 by shopping around. Then I noticed all the 'non-standard' items that weren't included, and added them back in as options. Suddenly, the expensive Volvo warranty wasn't looking quite as expensive. There's much to be lost through the wrong kind of focus.
Fifthly, there was an extended interaction between my good friend Chris Pearce (who heads up ValidPathDD) and myself, mapping out some of the finer points relating to BPR and EIS due-diligence, especially in relation to AIM portfolios. I was struck again by the fact that I am unaware of anyone out there conducting due diligence at this level, and was grateful again for the sheer quality of the folk who have become an integral part of the ValidPath family, over the seventeen years we've been operating. [We recently relaunched our Complex Investments due-diligence service to Members].
Sixthly, I had a very constructive conversation with an old colleague, who heads up one of the big professional bodies, focusing on the delivery of financial-planning advice. He wanted to know what we were up to...so I told him. In relation to the initiatives that we have been working on, or are still working on, his response was the same in every case: "that's exactly what our members are asking for, and no-one else is offering it."
My co-directors and myself are, we hope, a complacency-free zone. And we recognise that we're on a journey, with much to do. Nevertheless, it would be disingenuous to ignore what we've achieved: a community of the highest-quality IFA firms in the UK, underpinned by the kinds of values, standards and disciplines which most of our competitors largely disregard. And, in a world eviscerated by regulatory neglect, that seems to be the only safe place to be.