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MM Profile: Ivan Lyons

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The Investment Solutions director on why IFAs should concentrate on what they are good at rather than trying to change the world, why he is looking forward to the RDR and his plan to run 100 marathons before he hits 50 Interview by Rachael Adams

Football was partly to blame for Ivan Lyons’ move into financial services. The director of Investment Solutions director says: “I was on a booze cruise on the Red Sea with my accountancy job when someone lifted up a Brighton & Albion towel. Being a fan, I went up to him. He was the mortgage manager for Gresham Life. Six months later, I was working there.”

Brokerage suited Lyons more than accountancy. “I had always found talking to clients more interesting than number-crunching. Gresham was good because it had a unique selling point. It was the first life office to differentiate between smokers and non-smokers.”

When Gresham Life closed, Lyons moved to Eagle Star as a broker sales consultant. “It was calling on IFAs in Brighton that led to me meeting Keith Mitchelson, who would become my employer at Investment Solutions.”

However, Eagle Star relocated to Southampton after three years, so Lyons took the opportunity to move into advising with a job at Bain Clarkson. “Three months after I joined, the financial planning certificate came in but thankfully I passed.”

Lyons stayed at Bain Clarkson, now Towry Law, for 14 years but when Towry merged with John Scott & Partners, the change in corporate atmosphere was not to his liking. He stuck it out for another year before a brief stint at City firm Morgans but still wanted to find a business with a better fit. “I was offered four jobs but then Investment Solutions came along. It is a local firm dealing with Middle England clients and there is room for career progression.”

He became a director of Investment Solutions last year. “I still do a lot of advising. My main areas are pensions and investment - the company is weighted towards investment by 60 per cent. I am also the compliance officer, so I have a lot of different hats.”

That is not the only thing that keeps Lyons busy. He is a keen runner has set himself a challenge to complete 50 marathons. “I have been running for 16 years and after I ran my 16th marathon, I thought, ’What do I do next?’ and the 50-marathon challenge was born.”

After 40 marathons, Lyons decided to use his achievements to raise money for two local charities. He set himself a year-long challenge to get from 40 to 50 marathons. He has now run 48 marathons and plans for this year’s Brighton Marathon to be his 50th. Throughout the year, he has so far raised £7,500 for two local hospices, the Martlets Hospice for adults and the Chestnut Tree House for children.

Lyons trains with a local group called the Brighton Hash, a drinking club for people with running problems. “We meet at a pub on a Monday night, run round the countryside and then go back inside for a few drinks. We run whatever the weather, even in 6ft snowdrifts.”

Preparing Investment Solutions for the retail distribution review has also been taking up his time. “We installed Intelliflo as our new back-office system because we are trying to go paperless, which will make a real difference to clients.

“I also made sure the company was a member of Sifa, partly because our business primarily comes from solicitors but also because it gives us additional credence in the run-up to the RDR.”

Lyons rolled out a new service agreement for clients based on bronze, silver, gold and platinum service levels in 2009 and has been closely monitoring its progress. “It makes sure clients are clear on what level of service they are getting and what fees they are being charged.”

Qualifications have featured heavily in Investment Solutions’ business plans. Lyons reached chartered status last year and has ensured the rest of the financial planners have attained diplomas, apart from director Keith Mitchelson. “Keith thought things would get more difficult under the RDR, so he will not be advising after 2012. He will remain a director and will organise seminars.” Apart from Mitchelson’s change of role, Lyons does not expect the RDR to have a huge impact on Investment Solutions. “I think it will be a bit of a non-event, for us and the industry. IFAs are a resilient bunch. People said the industry would collapse when commission disclosure came in but it didn’t. We were a commission-based office until four years ago and when we turned the business full circle to an RDR-friendly arrangement, few of our clients winced. IFAs just have to be more cost-effective. Whereas previously you could offset a larger case against a smaller one, costs now have to be covered in all scenarios.”

Investment Solutions’ client base, consisting of middle to high-net-worth investors, means it is well placed to deal with the RDR. “Our clients understand fee-charging. If you are dealing with the bottom end of the market, then you have to take a view. IFAs have never made money out of people who have not got any money. I am looking forward to the RDR.”

But he does see challenges ahead for financial services. “There is still a lack of awareness on the open market option and the additional capital requirements from Solvency II could be challenging.”

For Investment Solutions, Lyons says the business has established what it is good at and is happy to concentrate on doing the same. “You read a lot about IFAs who want to take over the world but we are not like that. We just want to keep doing what we are doing.”

But it is away from the office that Lyons has set what most would consider a much tougher target.

“I want to run 100 marathons before my 50th birthday. The 100 Marathon Club only has 120 UK members, so that would be amazing.”

Ivan Lyons is raising money for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice and The Martlets Hospice through the website www.webjam.com/50marathons

Born: Brighton, in 1967

Lives: Hove, with wife, son and pet rabbit

Career: 2008-present, director and chartered financial planner, Investment Solutions Wealth Management; 2007-08: IFA, Morgans; 1993-2007: IFA, Towry Law (previously Bain Clarkson & Hogg Robinson); 1990-93: broker sales consultant, Eagle Star; 1989-90: broker sales consultant, Gresham Life

Likes: Helping clients meet their objectives, Brighton & Hove Albion and running marathons

Dislikes: Provider procrastination, never being able to win a marathon and not spending enough time in my potting shed

Drives: Audi A4 convertible

Book: Currently reading Enter The Dragon by Theo Paphitis

Film: Fiddler on the Roof

Album: Anything retro

Career ambition: To build Investment Solutions into the pre-eminent firm of financial advisers in West Sussex

Life ambition: To run 100 marathons by age 50

If I wasn’t doing this I would be…A weatherman

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