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Backstage with Keith Richards

26th July 2016

 

It is always so pleasing to hear stories of members going above and beyond the call of duty.

On Thursday, Chartered Financial Planner and Fellow of the Personal Finance Society, Martin Bamford will together with his team celebrate the 100th episode of their Informed Choice Radio podcast.

I have previously appeared as a guest on Informed Choice Radio, which plays an important role in keeping consumers and the adviser community abreast of the latest developments in our sector.

To celebrate the milestone, a live 100th episode will be broadcast at 1pm this Thursday. You can listen in by following the link: http://www.icfp.co.uk/episode100/

On behalf of the Personal Finance Society, I want to congratulate Martin and the team, and thank them for their outstanding contribution to our profession.

Demand for advice drives market trend

The recent decision by Aviva to re-enter the face-to-face advice market was met with a mixed response from the sector, with many advisers concerned that the trend could lead to poor consumer outcomes and potential conflicts of interest.

Money Marketing: The man from Aviva: What the return of advice arm means for the market

Aviva is the latest in a series of life companies seeking to extend access to advice products, and more are likely to follow as demand for less complex financial guidance and advice plays to the strengths of large institutions that already have a flow of enquiries from existing clients.

Standard Life, whilst not wanting to be classed as a life company, has taken a different approach through the acquisition of established intermediary firms, with the intent to grow its restricted advice arm 1825. Meanwhile, Old Mutual Wealth bought advice network Intrinsic in 2014 and is acquiring additional firms to build scale.

Scepticism around the re-emergence of vertical integration is understandable, but concerns about re-entry into advice by the likes of Aviva are largely misplaced in my opinion as the intent is not to compete with intermediaries, but rather to broaden access for consumers whose need and demand for advice continues to grow.

In addition, life companies have the resources to train new financial advisers, some of whom will go on to join intermediary firms or set up their own independent practices. 

Vertical integration in the life sector has been slowly emerging post RDR, with pension freedoms triggering further acceleration of the trend.

Rising costs, risk and burdensome regulation have been cited as major contributing factors for some firms attracted to vertically integrated consolidation vehicles with others seeing it as a route for succession.

It is surprising and somewhat premature however, for some experts to suggest that the re-entry of life companies into the advice market, coupled with robo-advice, will lead to the demise of the intermediary advice model.

Improved access to advice and technological advancements are likely to result in more consumers recognising the need for professional financial planning at some point during their lives. 

Several years ago, when the Banks were very active, I rarely heard of an IFA who lost business to them - in fact it was quite the opposite! 

Consumers need greater access and choice of proposition, which is why Aviva's announcement should complement rather than compete with the intermediary advice model.

Investment in the sector is a clear indicator that there is pent-up demand for financial advice. 

Nonetheless, it remains important for the regulator and government to consider the challenges facing the intermediary market, in order to improve consumer access and choice.

 

Best wishes,

Keith

 

About the Blog

In this blog Personal Finance Society CEO Keith Richards will be keeping you up-to-date with all the Personal Finance Society news, projects and initiatives that we have in the works.

Read past editions of the blog »