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David Child

Vertex’s managing director of life, pensions and distribution helped foil a multi-million-pound forgery fraud when he worked for the Bank of England but has so far been outfoxed by foxes on his farm. He can console himself in the knowledge that his company leads the way with IFA technology solutions and the next step is expansion beyond the UK. Now his dream product is a commission and statement process. Interview by Sam Shaw.

Vertex managing director of life, pensions and distribution David Child wanted to be a cricketing legend but fate led him to the Bank of England.

Child lives in Cheltenham on a mini-farm and is simultaneously grieving over some of his chickens being killed by foxes and his beloved Leeds United’s relegation.

He has witnessed the overhaul of IT solutions in the IFA space for almost 20 years. During his years working in auditing for the BoE, he was once seconded to work in the anti-counterfeit division for Scotland Yard and helped foil a multi-million-pound fraud.

He says: “It was very exciting. There was a case I was working on where someone was trying to counterfeit £10m in £20 notes.”

However, the draw of the North was too strong for Child and he moved from London back to Yorkshire to join Ken Davy at DBS. At the time, the network had just 200 members but had grown to 7,000 when it was sold to Misys in 2002.

The conversation is topical as the one-time DBS business, now part of Sesame, had changed hands once again just the day before.

Child was attracted to the IFA sector, having worked in banking, as he appreciated the work his own advisers had given him. He felt a respect for financial advice that saw him gravitate towards IFAs.

“They were very good at helping me plan my services and it seemed a sensible and exciting thing to do. The network model was brand new, having been created by Ken, and it was a great time to join the sector.”

Having seen the IFA and distribution model morph from the fledgling network it was then into the turbulent state it is in today, Child says the biggest change has been regulation.

“By far the biggest change has been regulation and the impact it has had on the industry for IFAs but, by the same token, it has helped with protecting consumers. I guess in that context it is seen as positive and necessary to move the industry forward.”

Child likes the freedom of choice that regulation has brought in terms of depolarisation and the onset of multi-tie and different advice models.

As IT director at DBS, he found a passion for technology that drove him to sponsor the development of the Assureweb business and he says the acquisition of 1st Software has secured the company’s position at the forefront of IFA technology solutions.

He says: “There are the three strands – life, pensions and distribution. We also have the Exweb portal and the mortgage business and acquiring our own back-office system finalised the package.”

As one in four mortgages is administered using his firm’s technology, Child does not believe there is much of a hole left to fill in terms of the services it offers.

Next on the agenda for Vertex is to expand beyond the UK. He says the firm is conducting research and working with an organisation called Limra looking at the life and pension industries in North America and Asia. “We will know more once the research is done as to when or for how long we intend to take things forward over there and what the proposition needs to look like.”

He sees treating customers fairly as the main issue facing advisers and hopes that the uptake of back-office systems can help to facilitate the advice process in a cleaner, more transparent and compliant method as well as easing the pain for IFAs.

“That is not just from our perspective but also from the point of view of consumer protection as well. They need to take up the services of a company such as 1st to ensure not only quality service and protection but also sustainability of their business.”

Child has seen the growth of electronic business applications, not only for quotations but also for post-sale service, e-business transactions and switching using wrap.

He says his dream technology product would help with commission payments and statement reconciliation through a single online, streamlined IT solution.

“This is currently done manually, with loads of statements sent all over the country to hundreds of IFAs. The opportunity for error is too great. Creating an industrywide capability of commission payment and processes is one of my ambitions in the marketplace but I cannot see it happening for at least five or seven years.”

Born: 1960, Leeds

Lives: Ledbury, Herefordshire, with wife and three children aged 16, 12 and 12

Career: 1977-86, Bank of England; 1986-89 M&E Network; 1989, joined DBS, where he held a number of directorships, including Compliance and IT; relocated to Cheltenham in 1997 to integrate Assureweb into the DBS group; June 2003, joined The Exchange as chief operating officer; 2004, became managing director, 2006 to date, managing director of life, pensions and distribution

Likes: Cricket, family holidays, “can do” people

Dislikes: Pretentious, rude and ill-mannered people

Drives: Landrover Discovery

Book: Hilary Rodham Clinton’s Living History

Film/TV: Goodnight Mister Tom starring John Thaw

Band: Genesis

Life ambition: My children to grow up confident and independent

If I wasn’t doing this, I would be: A full-time cricket coach

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