1944: The Tree Surgeon – Gordon
You may be aware that, whilst I work with many people from different walks of life, I have advised Consultant Doctors for over 20 years. I was interested to read an article that outlined the problems that surgeons are currently having which resonate with independent financial advisers. It seems that surgeons are also in a bit of a battle to protect the use of a word that describes what they do. A surgeon is someone that has a medical Degree and has undergone postgraduate surgical training. Yet there are a variety of people that also use the term “surgeon” such as a podiatrist surgeon, who is unlikely to hold a medical Degree, but may have spent 12 years training in the surgical and no-surgical treatment of the foot.
What I had not realised was that at the moment, anyone can call themselves a surgeon but are not able to portray themselves as a registered medical practitioner. There was I worrying about how the term independent has been abused and from 2013 will be further confused. I have a great deal of sympathy for medical surgeons on this matter, but probably the ability to use a title to describe a skill is best clearly defined, with room for the term to be applied to other disciplines too, only a fool would want open heart surgery from a tree surgeon. In January financial advisers will be either independent or restricted. Sadly a Bank adviser can be a restricted adviser in the same way that a really good financial planner that does not arrange or advise on “unregulated collective investment schemes” will also be a restricted adviser, yet there is a huge difference between the two.
The power of words and their usage is always important, but as one very sensible commentator wrote, “This all demonstrates the importance of ‘language’ – and the correct use of words; so that people can understand one another, knowing what specific words actually mean. Sadly today, our press and politicians seem adopt the Humpty Dumpty attitude towards words: “When I use a word, it means what I chose it to mean”! But then are they in the business of portraying clarity or confusion?”
The law (and regulator) needs to be very clear about definitions and sadly this is not the case at present for either financial planners or surgeons. It also needs to be remembered that there are some that will always seek to exploit vagueness in terminology. An independent licensed credit broker, is able to offer loans and mortgages, but it does not mean that they are independent and able to offer mortgages from the entire (or whole) market. As ever, caveat emptor – even when you are going for surgery. For the record, from 2013 my firm will remain Independent.
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