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In a new regular section of International Money Marketing Brief, Contract Marketing Services managing director Richard Lloyd-Jones looks at what offshore products and providers UK-based IFAs are using most.

Each month, I intend to focus on sales in a different part of the offshore market, taking in turn insurance products, investment products and banking services.

However, in this first instalment, I am taking an overview based on figures extracted from the 2004 Quantitative IFA Offshore Business Survey, sponsored by International Money Marketing and conducted by Contract Marketing Services.

The aim of these surveys is to help you see the direction in which the offshore market is going and which offshore products and providers your peers rate highly.

Using offshore products in financial planning is often necessary, particularly when dealing with more wealthy clients, but few advisers can afford to spend time researching the complete offshore market. We hope at these surveys will provide a starting point. As one adviser said in a recent telephone interview: “I do so little offshore business, it is sometimes difficult to know where to start.”

The offshore market has been subject to many of the same regulatory pressures as the UK, together with a few of its own. The result is that although there are still risks involved, offshore investments purchased for the right reasons can extend the scope of financial planning to clients’ benefit.

Table 1 shows the top 10 offshore products of all types as used by UK-based advisers. The percentage column shows the proportion of advisers who indicated that they use that product regularly. The following index gives a crude measure of frequency of use, with a figure of over one indicating frequent use.

There are some interesting points to note when looking at the table. Life cover products were used more frequently than insurance managed bonds, the product used by most advisers. When overseas respondents were included in the results, life cover proved to be the most popular product as well as the most frequently used.

There has been a clear trend towards protection products in the offshore market over recent years, probably reflecting the difficult investment conditions. It will be interesting to see whether this trend reverses following the relatively good performance of most investment markets over the last year.

Table 2 shows the top 10 product providers used for offshore business. The insurance companies are based principally in the Isle of Man but also in Dublin, Luxemburg and the Channel Islands.

Fund managers’ popularity may be boosted by the use of UK funds through offshore entities as well as the offshore funds managed by that group. An example is that Fidelity is the most popular fund management group but advisers may have invested in its funds directly or via Royal Skandia’s investment bonds.

The product table shows 73 per cent of advisers made some form of direct offshore fund investment over the year.

The most popular offshore bank among UK-based advisers was Abbey, despite cutting back its international operations considerably over the year. When overseas advisers were included, HSBC proved to be the more popular bank.

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