Financial services needs to debate its model (a conference that may do just that)

Maybe the best ideas begin in pubs. If you found yourself in any North London pub in the last couple of years, you might have overheard two Irishmen, one from Bangor, one from Derry discussing in hushed Northern Irish tones, the need for financial services businesses to adapt their models to the brave new world of difficult markets, tough regulations and the need to restore trust among consumers.

Oh those crazy North London nights you may say. Wish I’d been there. (Well you’re more than welcome if you are in town).

I must admit that most of the thinking in these discussions came from Mr Mick McAteer, director of the Financial Inclusion Centre, but my contribution was to suggest that we found a financial services firm, which might want to run such a conference – one that agreed with the underlying premise that things have to change. And we found one.

Public relations and public affairs firm Lansons have agreed host the conference in part because they can see the need for such a discussion to begin.

The conference involves arguably the two top regulators the FCA’s chief executive Martin Wheatley and the PRA’s chief executive Andrew Bailey and takes place in April. (not from my contacts book, extensive as it is!)

Now many IFA readers of the Money Debate and indeed of my columns in FTadviser and Fundsnetwork will know that I have often pointed out that it is the IFA sector that has had a new model imposed on it, for a host of good reasons and one or two rather less well thought through ones. But it is also very clear that other businesses are going to have to change or they will not be able to thrive, simply because the world has altered pretty fundamentally. That is not just because of what has happened to distribution, of course, but because almost every other assumption governing retail business, certainly in the last ten years, has been turned on its head. Not everyone is going to agree on the detail. But whether it is back to basics or a whole new approach we need, at the very least, businesses need to start debating the issues seriously.

What is at stake is a huge numbers of jobs, the efficiency and productivity of the economy, the leading role played by the City, the ability of consumers to make provision for themselves by saving, investing and insuring and ability of businesses to access capital. It’s not small beer, even if the discussion started in a pub.

Anyway, as you have probably noted this is a little plug for conference which could help fire up this debate. If you are interested, here is the link to the invitation. It does cost a little to attend. I’ll be talking about models a little more in the next few weeks.