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Campbell Macpherson: Are provider BDMs any use to you?


Which business development managers do you regard as trusted business advisers and which ones are simply target-carrying mouth-pieces for the provider’s marketing messages?

How many BDMs understand what it is like to be an entrepreneurial business owner?

How many genuinely understand your business model, priorities, aspirations and concerns? How many possess the business acumen and consulting skills to make a significant difference to your business?

Phil Pilgrim, the founder of a fee-based advice business in Australia (and one of my key business partners in our ‘Clients for Life’ programme), speaks openly of how this has already played out Downunder.

“Of the swarms of BDMs that would get into my diary, perhaps two out of 10 provided me with any real value; and this was never product information. The ones I would see again were those who were able to provide me with real insight to help me improve my business.”

For the days of product-centric, transaction selling are over.

In the good old days, sales directors could rely on large expense budgets and charismatic sales people to attract business from financial advisers. But today’s advisers and wealth managers are demanding a different type of relationship with their providers; the transactional, “always be closing” sales approach needs to be replaced with a consultative style of strategic account management.

Today’s BDMs need to be revenue-generating business consultants and consummate relationship managers. But most important of all, they need to realise that it is the adviser’s business that they are being paid to develop.

The providers who will succeed will be the ones who focus on helping advisers to build highly successful businesses.

Financial services providers (platforms, fund managers, life companies, …) need to be clear about the value they add to advisers and wealth managers, and they must redefine the way they interact with these key intermediary customers – because their future success is tied inextricably to the success of the advisers they serve.

Here are some of the questions providers need to ask themselves:

  • Why should an adviser choose your platform?
  • Why should an adviser select your platform as their primary platform?
  • What is special about your Sipp, Isa, bond wrappers?
  • Why should a wealth manager select your investment solutions? What value do you add to advice businesses?
  • What makes you stand out from the dozens of platforms / lifecos and the hundreds of fund managers vying for the same business?
  • And most importantly … “What can I do to help my customers make their businesses even more successful?”

Prior to 2013, life companies and, to some extent, platforms, held the upper-hand in the relationship with the adviser simply due to the fact that most advisers were physically paid by the product provider.

Now that the client pays the adviser and the adviser controls the destination of client investments, the relationship has been turned on its head.

The removal of commission and the banning of fund manager platform rebates have put advisers and wealth managers firmly in control. Today’s new breed of sales person needs to fully understand what it is like to be an adviser or wealth manager; the challenges, concerns and opportunities of owning and running an advice business.

They need to know how to drive value in an advice business. They need to understand what it is like to be an entrepreneur. They need to know the value they can add to their clients’ businesses and how they can help their clients build ever-more-successful enterprises. And then they need to do it. This requires a completely new approach.

An increasing number of providers have woken up to this fact and many have cut their ‘Old School’ sales forces in half. Now several are embarking on full scale sales transformation programmes to equip their remaining BDMs with new skills, attitudes and tools.

Because in this new world where products are commodities, platforms are utilities and almost every provider owns one, people are the key differentiator.

They need to ask themselves how well do their BDMs measure up? Are they among the 20 per cent who you look forward to seeing again, or are they among the 80 per cent who are unlikely to get a second meeting?

Campbell Macpherson is managing director of Campbell Macpherson & Associates Ltd. He has held executive roles in Zurich, Openwork and Sesame



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There are 4 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. This is what it’s all about these days.

    Working on this side of the fence (provider) I see a few times a day how hard it is to get an adviser to hear me out. I’ve been trained in all sorts of ways to get attention and quickly found out that badgering and pestering simply do not work.

    Put your point across, show where you can add value in what areas then simply be there when needed. After a while a relationship will form naturally if it’s meant to.

    “Keep in touch with advisers every week, make sure they don’t forget you” …..was a line from a previous employers trainer. Safe to say everyone that she taught didn’t do too well. Ring an adviser every week for no reason and you’ll hear some shouting haha

    I’ll make the shift to the adviser side at some stage so will be on the receiving end too, can’t wait…….

    On a side note, another good article Campbell, thanks.

  2. this is so true – I still have too many BDM’s who just want to get their point across and tell me what their particular offering is. no specific help to me or my clients! I know what each provider does and wasting time speaking to a BDM who, latterly, you cannot get hold of because they are “in a meeting” or otherwise engaged, is of no help whatsoever! BDM’s need to understand that its not just a case of filling their diary. They need to be able to offer positive help and information when it is required – not 5 days later when they may eventually call back!!!! Those BDM”s that are pro-active and helpful are the ones I will give my time to….. not the ones who want to tick me off their list because they have seen me this quarter!!!

  3. Always has it been thus….. the better BDMs/Inspectors/Broker Consultants have always brought more to the table than just product pushing. Although if truth be told, it WAS product pushing in disguise… some disguised it better than others… you have to remember that as a long time purveyor of said trade, I was remunerated on product sales..not IFA satisfaction or plaudits.. as pleasing as they were to receive, there are no league tables in BDM world for “nice comments”..

    It would be naïve to think that a BDM or his employer would be particularly keen to lead you on a business journey which took you away from their product suite….

    There is (and always will be) a large dollop of “quid pro quo” in these symbiotic relationships….

  4. mmmm good article but we seem to be missing an elephant here, the fact that with the FCA focussed now on culture, behaviour and the fact the business model is now added to threshold competency, product provider BDM’s are technically on a sticky wicket.

    One of the key concerns the FCA has is provider influence over adviser firm distribution and service propositions thus there is now the case for (wait for it) independent consultancy to be adopted of adviser firms want professional development advice.

    There are still good support services offered by providers, yet with conflicts of interest and inducements in the frame i’m afraid that it’s those who do not offer solution led services and focus on the old school transaction product that has and will cause concern.

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