Cliff Lockyer is aiming to challenge the traditional dominance of product providers by building Berkeley Berry Birch into a multi-channel distribution giant.
He sees the end of polarisation as the catalyst for change which will give him the opportunity to set up a distribution network and establish a national brand.
Lockyer describes his career in 10-year chunks: “The 1970s was about becoming a good salesman. In the 1980s, I put that knowledge in practice as an adviser. I developed the concept of holistic financial planning and was one of the founding committee of the Institute of Financial Planning. The 1990s was all about building the businesses – by the end of the decade, I had in place a financial planning arm, a network and a quality software business, Synaptic Systems.”
His plan for this decade is to challenge the market power of the providers on the grounds that distribution should be king. He compares the provider/IFA relationship with that of the farmer and the corner shop in the 1960s.
“Forty years ago, there were around 500,000 corner shops and all the financial power was in the hands of the people who produced goods. Now we have five supermarkets calling the tune because they give a far better service to their customers. In the UK, there are around 15,000 IFA firms and their combined value is less than German adviser firm MLP. Perhaps we will be an MLP one day.”
He believes growth in the power of the distributors in the financial services sector will be good for consumers who will make the model succeed. Lockyer believes that when polarisation is swept away they will be able to design their own products. “We are closest to our clients. We know what they want. We will be able to develop our own products or do it jointly with the providers. We know we can get competitive deals off providers because of the amount of business we will be doing. These savings can be passed on to the client making the multi-tie channel more competitive.”
“Multi-ties will be the most successful channel because it will be the most beneficial route for the client. Over the last decade, the savings ratio has gone down badly and therefore polarisation has not worked.
I agree with Howard Davies' statement to that effect. Multi-ties will stimulate competition whereas polarisation stifles it.”
A straight-talking man, he emphasises his confidence in being able to deliver what he promises, and a dislike of show. He is proud of building his Berkeley Independent Advisers'network from an office in Coventry, hardly classic IFA territory.
Since the reversal into Berry Birch & Noble last December, he now has around 700 advisers. Synaptic now has over 9,500 users of its desktop software as well as 6,800 users of IFA Online.
Lockyer's vision sees depolarisation freeing distributors to grow into national brands. Backed by £2.5m stakes from Clerical Medical, Friends Provident, Norwich Union, Scottish Widows and Skandia, Lockyer sees depolarisation as the opportunity for adviser firms to design products and eventually challenge the power of the product providers themselves.
But he denies that multi-tie deals will be affected by product providers which take stakes. “The providers have no board representation and have no influence on what decisions are made. Standard Life have as much chance as anyone else, provided that it offers the right products,” he says.
To carry out the grand plan, Lockyer needs advisers and last week saw the launch of Berry Birch & Noble Advisers, an acquisition vehicle for IFA firms looking to multi-tie or join the IFA arm. This new acquisition arm is understood to have several firms in the pipeline.
Lockyer's ambitions do not stop at the UK advice sector. He says he wants BBB to be able to offer all the services that a bank offers to businesses, predicting expansion into the fields of insolvency work and corporate consultancy. Lockyer says: “We want to give total advice, so you can get everything from one place – like going to Sainsbury's.”
His explanation of the shift of power leaves the product providers with less financial muscle, all competing for a piece of distribution. Far-fetched some might say now, but comparing the capitalisation of distribution in the UK with what has happened in Europe, Lockyer may be able to pull it off.
He is a high-flier in his leisure time as well, being a keen pilot. Brought up and still living in the Midlands, he enjoys family life and the study of house design through the ages, something he shares with his wife Nicola, an architect.
Lives: Leamington Hastings, Warwickshire
Born: Nuneaton, September 4, 1949
Education: Nuneaton High School
Career to date:1971-78, Refuge Assurance salesman; 1978-80, Friends Provident salesman; 1980-82, Albany Life salesman; 1982, formed Berkeley Asset Management;1987, member of founding committee of the Institute of Financial Planning; 1992, founded Berkeley Independent Associates; 1999, founded Synaptic Systems; 2002, group chief executive Berkeley Berry Birch
Career ambition: “I want to take our team to build a multi-channel financial services group internationally and see IFAs get the respect they deserve.”
Life ambition: “To continue enjoying family life and flying.”
Likes: Honour and integrity. “You shouldn't need a contract if you have a shake of the hand.”
Dislikes: I am fortunately very happy.
Car: Mercedes S Class and nine-year-old Vauxhall Omega
Peers say: “A sharp operator.”