The former Destini managing director believes the debate on qualifications is overshadowing the bigger concern of business transformation and he is spearheading a new technology firm to help IFAs Interview by Sam Macdonald
After setting up IFA firm Destini in 2002, Jon Everill was an early pioneer of the quick-fire adviser consolidation model. “We bought 23 IFA businesses in 24 months, including a network we bought from an administrator,” he says. “We made a lot of headway in very difficult conditions and borrowed a lot of money from RBS and invested several tens of millions. It was ahead of its time.”
Destini merged with Simon Chamberlain’s Thinc in 2005 with a business model that offered whole of market and multi-tied advice to take advantage of the new depolarisation rules. The firm rebranded as Thinc Group and was then sold to Axa in October 2006 in a deal that could have reached £100m if targets were met. Thinc Group rebranded as Bluefin and last December announced that none of the targets had been met and former Thinc Destini directors, including Everill, lost out on a potential £60m.
Bluefin’s wealth management arm has struggled since its acquisition by Axa and last year reported a £62m writedown after a restructure on top of impairment charges of £40m the previous year, again following a restructure. Adviser numbers were also cut from 180 to 50 last year, with Everill among those leaving.
The new challenge came in the form of IFA technology firm Time4Advice, which Everill is working on with former Quay Software founder Roland Rawicz-Szczerbo. A formal launch is planned later this year.
Everill says his experience at Destini has given him a good perspective on the IFA consolidation trend. “What we have learnt having bought or sold over 50 businesses in the last 10 years is very interesting. You need to understand the motivation behind why someone is trying to sell and understand how you keep it intact.
“A lot of IFAs out there, particularly the older ones, think about two things, how much money their business might be worth and what the liability of that business is. The motivation is almost always money and getting rid of a liability.”
Everill entered the financial services sector as a 20-year-old living in Salisbury, working for Friends Provident. He moved to London and became part of the Friends sales team and a year later joined IFA business Swire Group as an adviser.
He left Swire to set up his own IFA firm, Provecta Financial Management, then moved to adviser firm CAG Private Finance before setting up Destini.
Everill is an advocate of the retail distribution review reforms but suggests the FSA could have implemented the new rules in a better way. He says the loss of some clients because of the changes could be “a necessary evil” and believes some people misunderstand the intentions behind the review.
“It was never designed to try to plug the savings gap or deal with issues of inequality in our society. It was designed to protect consumers and create a more stable market.”
Everill believes the RDR will put networks under further pressure with the middle market eroded due to remuneration changes and admits there is uncertainty about what will fill the void.
“Millions of customers will potentially become unserved without a point of contact so we do not know what will mop that up. The banks are missing the action because they are still focusing on their own issues. It could be an internet company but people will need advice more than they ever did. Something quite profound will happen in the next two years.”
Everill, who is a Personal Finance Society vice-president, suggests the focus on getting the new QCF level four benchmark qualification is overshadowing the bigger challenge of restructuring IFA businesses to meet the new charging rules.
“There will be a lot of people who decide they want to stay in the industry but, after getting their qualifications, realise they will struggle to attract and maintain enough clients to keep them in business. I think there will be a steady decline after the RDR as those who stay find it very hard to do business in the new transparent world.”
In his role as PFS vice-president Everill aims to raise awareness of standards and ethics across the industry.
“The PFS focus at the moment is on helping people know what qualifications they need to get and demystifying the gap-fill area. We want to help people get through the next two years. Raising awareness is critical for me and for the industry, along with our 29,000 members.”
Everill says the PFS has been largely misunderstood in recent years and he is keen to ensure advisers understand what it does and distance the professional body from trade organisations such as Aifa.
“It can be frustrating when people think we are there to lobby for things, but what we are trying to make people aware of is that we are here to increase the awareness of what it requires to meet the increasing standards of our industry.”
Everill is a qualified wind-surfing instructor and devotes much of his leisure time to riding the waves in Florida, where he has a house, and spending time with his family. “I spend a lot of time away from home so when I am off I spend as much time as I can with them. My son is into all sorts of things, he is playing cricket for Shropshire and for Wales so that is taking up a lot of his time. He is keen on sports and is into surfing and my passion is wind-surfing so between us we spend a lot of time doing the things we like to do.”
Born: 1968, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Lives: Mid-Wales with wife, son and dog
Education: Canford School, Dorset
Career: 1991-95: adviser, Swire Fraser;
1995-2000: director, Provecta Financial Management;
2000-02: director, CAG Private Finance;
2002-05: managing director, Destini Financial Services Group;
2005-09: joint managing director, Thinc Destini;
2009-10: director, Bluefin Group; February 2010-current: managing director, J&L Consulting; December
2010-current: director, Time4Advice;
December 2009-current: member-nominated director, Personal Finance Society Likes: Work, rest and play
Dislikes: Ash clouds, hurricanes and snow at Heathrow
Drives: VW Golf
Book - The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
Film: The Shawshank Redemption
Album: Back in Black by AC/DC
Career ambition: Drive and deliver successful change in the industry
Life ambition: To make a difference in whatever I do.
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…professional wind-surfer (and living in Maui)