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Databases will beat the panels

Let&#39s pull the curtain down on product panels. Let&#39s make technology

centre stage. Let&#39s explode the myths aboutnetworks and product panels.

I can, of course, only speak for my own network but it is a misconception

that deals are struck with a small number of product provi-

ders which pass backlarge amounts of commission in return for access to a

large group of advisers which undertake to “tie” to these providers.

Our members chose to become IFAs so they could offer a comprehensive range

of quality products to consumers. My organisation&#39s views and operations

start and end with the provision of member benefits and enhancing the role

of the independent adviser.

Do product panels support the role of the independent adviser?

Not in our view. That is why we don&#39t have them.

A compelling reason for network membership is to benefit from the

increased buying power of a bigger group and because bigger networks have a

bigger appetite for services. Members are looking for hard-hitting deals

negotiated on their behalf. Enforcing any reduction in product choice as a

result of restrictive panels is not good service and alien to the whole

concept of independent advice.

Advisers have a range of criteria to meet in providing good advice,

including choice of product. With a vast array of angles to cover in

providing ways for each client to achieve financial goals, time is at a

premium.

Enter technology. Offering endless information at the push of a button and

specialist online services designed to speed up IFAs&#39 business processes,

leaving them free to do what they do best, building relations with clients

and building mutually profitable relationships.

More and more product databases are coming on to the market that can not

only filter products by clients&#39 needs but also by a range of criteria

pertinent to the best advice process, such as financial strength, charging

structure and past performance.

The wide variety of search factors that come into play are, however,

rarely all together on one database and although I have no doubt that an

all encompassing product will be here soon, it is not available now. So

what advisers appreciate is a device such as an authoritative product guide

that provides in-depth information.

Our product guides give advisers access to informed product

recommendations from a team of dedicated technical experts and provide the

adviser with another tool that complements electronic product databases and

adds to the robustness of the product search.

As an example of our extensive product search on behalf of members, our

unit trust specialists evaluate around 225 funds from 90 providers.

There is a wealth of data out there and one solution to keeping up to date

with the daily introduction of new products is to tap into an established

and effective technical support mechanism, such as that offered by

networks. In addition, it is possible to draw an intuitive insight from a

wider team that is not always available from a computer screen.

There are also regulatory concerns with electronic databases as there may

be inconsistencies with the filters used to arrive at a product selection

and compliance with the best advice process, and the whole ethos of

independent financial advice.

Our product guides strictly adhere to the best advice rules and are the

result of detailed policy analysis to ensure that the most suitable product

on the market for the client&#39s need is recommended.

But what of the future? Evidence suggests that the show is over for

product panels. Technology is pushing back the frontiers and changing the

way we work through the use of interactive software while online

transactions and continuous innovation will lead to increasingly

sophisticated product databases.

We believe we are committed to technology as a means of increasing sector

efficiency. As a company we are already working on the provision of a

database built on criteria that reinforce the concept of independent advice

and combines the widest possible list of products with the special blend of

product information gleaned from technical research experts.

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