In recent weeks I have been overwhelmed with the response from PFS members to a number of our recently launched initiatives.
Hundreds of you have signed up to our national anti-scamming campaign, pledging to spend 15 minutes each month scouring press, web and telephone promotions to help identify and report potential scams.
This initiative is particularly important, given that financial advisers are best placed to spot potential scams, which are posing a greater threat than ever to all of our families, friends, clients and the wider public. Just being more alert and reporting potential scams is a key public service - Thank You!
Earlier this month, we launched Aspire - a new financial adviser development programme which combines apprenticeship funding with PFS sponsorship to support employers of aspiring financial advisers.
We have already fielded well in excess of 200 registrations of interest for this programme, which will play a critical role in developing the next generation of financial advisers, and support the growing need for sector-wide succession planning.
Last week we were busy responding to two consultations, offering an opportunity for us to renew calls for improved consumer outcomes.
Firstly, in our response to the Treasury's consultation on banning cold calling, we urged the Government to broaden the ban across all electronic communications including uninvited emails, texts, promotional brochures and social media. We also suggested the ban cover general investments as well as pensions.
Our second response was to the Government's consultation on creating a single public financial guidance body, in which we renewed our calls for the term 'advice' to be removed from all branding, marketing and communications associated with the formation of the new body.
Currently the Pension Guidance Service is delivered through The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) and general money guidance provided by Money Advice service (MAS) - we are calling for the introduction of accurate, clear and not misleading branding and marketing.
The creation of a new single guidance body offers the perfect opportunity to clearly differentiate the services offered by the new body from those offered by a regulated professional adviser, by aligning terminology and using the term 'advice' only when specifically referring to regulated financial advice provided by a professional financial adviser. A guidance service should be named a 'guidance service' for consistency and over time the differentiation should become better established and intuitive for consumers.
We believe these two measures would serve the interests of consumers, firstly through improved protection against innovative scammers, and secondly through improved clarity of terminology.
THANKING OUR VOLUNTEERS
Earlier this month, more than 120 regional officers, PFS staff and board members congregated at Oulton Hall near Leeds, to formally recognise the contribution made by volunteers who support PFS activities at a local level each year.
The annual Officers' Conference also offered an opportunity for regional committees to discuss their plans for the year ahead, to network and to engage with a range of key speakers.
Nine new chairpersons have been elected to lead their regions this year, with a growing group of close to 150 education officers, membership officers, Chartered Champions and committee members lending their support in the year ahead.
Each year, regional officers volunteer their time to support the Society's events, CPD and other activities, representing an essential resource for assisting members at a local level and for maintaining the future growth and professional standing of the PFS.
ROBO: THREAT OR OPPORTUNITY
On Thursday, the Society will host a conference in conjunction with the European Financial Planning Association (EFPA) on the topic of Robo Advice: Threat or Opportunity.
We will welcome over 40 visitors from across Europe at our Great Hall in London, where close to 200 attendees will have the chance to hear from a range of experts on the impact of technology on modern financial advice.
The debate on robo advice has intensified in recent weeks, and earlier this month I took part in a panel discussion on BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme to discuss the pros and cons of the growing influence of modern technology.
It was pleasing to hear from the FCA's director of strategy and competition, Christopher Woolard, who reassured the sector that the regulator was focused on ensuring that consumers were offered a robust package of protections with regard to the use of automated advice services.