Having revamped the old Allied Dunbar tied network, Zurich's IFA arm under new boss Jim Reeve will be drawing on the tied side to boost its IFA offering.
Reeve took over as managing director at Zifa in August following the retirement of Jerry Grayburn. Reeve was marketing director at Zifa and has been with the Zurich group for 22 years.
Now the range of services within the whole Zurich group will be opened out to the Zifa businesses. Reeve says franchised tied advisers share common ground with IFA firms, such as compliance, training and competence and using technology.
Reeve will look to integrate some of Zurich's experience in managing a big salesforce in a compliant way to Zifa as well as sharing best practice across the divisions.
Zurich's Allied Dunbar salesforce has now been rel-aunched as the Zurich Advice Network with a vigorous man-datory testing regime in place.
While the group's tied sales have suffered during this time of upheaval, business in the group's IFA division has stead-ily been increasing. Sterling, its IFA exclusive investment brand, saw sales rise by 234 per cent in the first six months of the year.
Reeve believes, with the whole Zurich group at his disposal, that he can convince IFAs that Zifa is a strong contender in the market.
He says: “We are going to bring the power, experience and knowledge of the Zurich group to the IFA market. We are already experienced in supplying the tied proposition. That experience is of immense value to the IFA businesses.
“We want to make IFAs look good in front of their customers and make them more profitable through their relationship with Zurich. I want to see us sitting alongside IFAs, working with them. We have a pool of assets which can be configured to bring most value to IFAs.”
Many in the industry would have had Zurich earmarked as a likely front-runner in the rush to sign up IFAs ahead of any changes to polarisation that would allow multi-ties.
But Reeve is urging caution on the current fad of investing in IFAs, saying both parties should consider the consequences carefully. He believes that product provider owning IFAs could lead to serious breaches of independence.
He says: “I believe a more meaningful and appropriate way to help IFAs is to focus on their own bottom line. The industry should be very cautious of the threat this could bring that consumers would not perceive IFAs as independent from product providers.”
Zurich wants to see more gap-filling opportunities from the polarisation review and thinks allowing gap-filled products to be white-labelled could be the way forward.
There has been a streamlining of brands in Zurich's tied side, with the Allied Dunbar name disappearing from all but protection products. However, Reeve says the IFA arm will remain multi-branded.
It currently has Eagle Star, Zurich Life, and Sterling and sees strength in keeping the brands separate. He says: “We have one distribution business that can bring a number of providers to the market. This supports the IFA proposition which is choice.”
Reeve certainly has all the right buzzwords to describe Zifa's new approach, saying it can offer IFAs a “customer solution”, providing a “holistic service” based on “wealth creation” that can really “add value” for the IFA and customer.
But he insists this is about servicing customers rather than just pushing products. He says: “I am absolutely convinced this strategy will win in the longer term and we will see this customer solution evolving over the coming months.”
He also wants to pump up Zifa's profile as being an active player in the IFA market and lobbying Government.
He says: “We want to be seen as actively playing a part in the industry. We want to be seen as championing the IFA cause. It is on my agenda to make that happen.”