The Leopard's Spots are Unchanged
A few years back, I was taking a rare day off work with my wife, when I was suddenly deluged with text messages from Member Firms, informing me that they had been on the receiving end of a marketing call from a competitor Network, making the untruthful claim that we had put our charges up.
This kind of thing is always somewhat difficult to take. Not only have we always been less expensive than most of our competitors, and not only had we not put our charges up, but (more importantly) we had adhered for years to the discipline of maintaining a downwards pressure on costs - believing that this is good for IFAs, and good also for their clients.
I wrote formally to the directors of the network responsible to complain at the time, and I also wrote to the (then) FSA, pointing out that, within any kind of organisation, culture starts at the top, and trickles all the way down through the hierarchy. These kinds of deceitful practices are a pervasive kind of thing. The only response we received from the culprit was somewhat petulant, and did not, in any shape or form, show any sign of repentance.
Today, I learn, they are doing it again! It may be a somewhat perverse kind of compliment, that a much larger network feels the need to engage in these kinds of tactics, but it is evidence that, despite the passing of the years, and despite the FCA's sustained emphasis on professional ethics and standards, there are some beasts that may never be tamed.
ValidPath's charging basis has not changed. There are components within our calculations which do have to be adjusted on an annual basis, such as the allowance for FCA fees and PII, but those elements are documented clearly in our calculations. Within the overall mix, the basis for ValidPath's own charge remains stable, and has not increased since records began. Longer-term Members will know that we attempt to be as transparent and explicit as possible in respect of all the components which make up our network deductive. And, as you may be aware, we have generally good relationships with product-providers, who value the fact that we don't demand bribes before we give our Members access to their products. We believe that independent advice is so valuable, that it should not be subverted by those kinds of conflict of interest.
If you have been on the receiving end of one of these uninvited and misleading approaches, do please let us know. It would help us to build up an accurate picture of what is going on, in case we need to make representations again - not that the culprit betrayed any interest in the facts, last time around...
Update at 11/12/2018
And they're still at it! The fundamental tenets of ValidPath's service model are transparency and accountability - thankfully, our longer-term Members have come to value these kinds of qualities, given the kind of murky ethical ethos which one encounters elsewhere...