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AIFA opens membership to restricted advisers

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AIFA has today confirmed plans to allow restricted advisers to join the trade body. The controversial decision follows a strategic review that began in December and will involve a rebrand of the association.

Previously AIFA was only open to independent advisers who offered whole of market product advice, however under the new structure it will accept all except single-tied advisers. No vote was held although AIFA says the decision was based on thorough research with both members and non-members.

The trade body will move to a college structure with three subsidiaries: IFAs, restricted advisers, and mortgage brokers, and will be governed by an elected Board. Director General, Stephen Gay, described the development as "the way forward", and said "It is right morally, it is right politically and it is right economically".

At the time of writing, a poll by Money Marketing showed that support for the changes stood at just a third of respondents, likely due to fear that expansion could threaten the voice of independence. As its member base widens, AIFA risks becoming less relevant to its individual sectors. The move is a long way from AIFA's original manifesto in 1999, and the concerns surrounding AIFA's funding levels have left questions over whether it is acting for the benefit of advisers. Without doubt independence is in the best interests of the consumer, and AIFA should be supporting this.

On the other hand, while the trade body represents individuals it also represents the industry as a whole, and as RDR redefines the term 'independent', many advisers currently operating as IFAs will become 'restricted advisers' if they continue to operate in the same way in 2013. Therefore AIFA is acting pragmatically to represent the changing face of the industry and avoid having to turn away existing members who will be re-labelled come RDR. The trade body would also be threatening its influence if it confined its membership to IFAs alone, as policymakers want to hear from representatives of a broad community.

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