For someone about to reinvent the direct salesforce, few people could have a more classic preparation than AMP advisory services sales director Andy Halstead. Before being poached to revitalise Pearl's direct salesforce, Halstead put in the miles, wearing away the shoe leather as an agent for the Pru.
One of last year's big stories was the demise of the direct salesforce, with company after company axing their foot soldiers. But Halstead argues that CP121 opens up the possibility of their reinvention, particularly in its proposals for a second – and cheaper – tier of advice.
He is launching an ambitious venture for a franchise network of tied advisers, who would have all their capital, infrastructure and compliance requirements met by AMP. The aim, once the post-polarisation regime is announced, is to operate both tiers of advice.
The major innovation is the move to trail commission. Halstead says: “It is impossible to argue that commission bias does not exist or affect behaviour.” But the move to trail – which AMP will finance – is more than avoiding commission bias, he says.
Recalling his days on the road, Halstead says the more you see people, the more they trust you and the more likely they are to make a purchase. By shifting to trail commission, advisers are rewarded for building up the assets of customers and encouraging persistency.
Halstead stresses the importance of face-to-face advice and persuasion. “If we waited for the advice-seekers, we would be very poor indeed,” he says.
Unlike so many of his competitors, Halstead sees the abandoned lower-income end of the market as a major opportunity. But he points out that the direct channel has had success with the wealthy as well as the poor. “I would hate people to get the idea that this is something we are doing to target lower incomes only.”
He believes the kind of advice required at the lower end of the market is quite different. Debt and general insurance, for example, form part of the menu for this market, with AMP taking advantage of its link with Cornhill on the general side. Halstead says AMP has ambitions to be a one-stop shop, with the goal of adding a transactional banking capability.
Government reassurance that providers will not be pursued in the future for misselling is critical to the success of second-tier advice, says Halstead, and he welcomes the recent announcement by Work and Pensions Secretary Alistair Darling that the stakeholder idea of regulating products rather than advice will be extended.
Halstead's new network is designed to appeal to existing tied salesmen and IFAs but he also wants to recruit salespeople from completely different disciplines and graduates, who would be put through AMP's own “academy”.
While preparing for his A levels, Halstead says his ambition was to get into sporting college, saying he was once built for speed rather than comfort. His teachers encouraged him to practise his interview technique, which is why he ended up going to TSB's office in King Street, Manchester.
To his great surprise, he was offered a job and, tempted by the money, which seemed like telephone numbers to the 17-year-old from Rochdale, he accepted. A susceptibility to the good things in life is something which Halstead, still sporting a tan from a recent family jaunt to Mauritius, is happy to admit to.
He remembers visits from insurance salesmen while still in the parental home. Four years after he became a clerk at TSB, a man from the Pru visited his parents' home, sitting in the front room and sipping tea. Halstead joined the discussions and mentioned a job. Three days later, the salesman returned with his district manager and Halstead was offered a position just a month before he was married.
His later teenage years coincided with the dying years of disco fever and Halstead used to DJ after a hard day's slog. He is a fan of Tom Jones but says his tastes include Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross or “anyone who is easy to listen to”. Now, Halstead prefers the green, green grass of home. He lives in the little village of Marford, near Chester. He leaves home at 4.30am every Monday morning to return at 6.30pm on Friday.
Irrespective of where or who he has worked for, he has led the peripatetic life of the salesman. But his travelling is now carried out in the greater comfort and glamour of a silver Porsche Carrera 911. While he is happy to put in the hours during the week, the weekend is sacred and devoted to his family. For his weekend life, the transport is different – a Chrysler Voyager that can accommodate his four children.
A lifelong Manchester United supporter, it must be galling to be a Manchester City season ticketholder, particularly for someone who describes one of his main qualities as loyalty. The reason is his son, whose allegiances were influenced by his maternal grandfather before Halstead could get there.
Today, Halstead's task is to influence the allegiance of IFAs and the agents of AMP UK's competitor agents, to tempt them over to his new idea and become their new field marshal.
Lives: Marford, near Chester.
Born: Rochdale, December 27, 1961.
Education: Balderstone Grammar, Rochdale.
Career to date: TSB – clerk; Prudential – progressing from district agent to regional sales director; AMP Pearl – initially national sales development manager, now advisory services sales director.
Career ambition: “To lead a direct salesforce that works in the new market.”
Life ambition: “To watch my children grow up into adults and to become a grandparent.”
Likes: Champagne, good red wine, restaurants, travel, the Royle Family, being with his family.
Dislikes: Couscous, “can't do” mentality.
Peers say: “He is extremely focused and very successful young man – a rising star. He is also hard-nosed”