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David Elms

Despite the daily “commute from hell”, IFA Promotion chief executive David Elms is savouring the challenge of convincing consumers of the value of independent financial advice.

Elms does his daily trip from the relative tranquillity of the south Cotswolds to Ifap&#39s office in Farringdon, London to spread the IFA message.

The 37-year-old joined Ifap in October 1998 as marketing manager before taking on the role of acting chief executive and head of marketing and PR following Ann-Marie Martyn&#39s departure in May last year.

Elms says: “Ann-Marie is a past-master of PR whereas my experience is more with the marketing and sales process so we had complementary mindsets.”

On proving he could take on the PR mantle from Martyn to add to his marketing skills, Elms was given the Ifap chief executive position in March.

In this role, he continues to show his commitment to his view that advice is needed on stakeholder.

Elms is trying to get Opra to include a link to Ifap on its website so people can easily get access to an IFA. Opra has been resistant so far as it is determined to toe the Treasury line that stakeholder does not require advice.

“Employers should be given the choice of visiting an IFA about group stakeholder, just as they have a choice to visit an accountant or solicitor.”

The importance of choice is a theme running through Elms&#39s conversation as he discusses the options he took on the route to joining Ifap.

He casts his mind back to leaving Hatfield Polytechnic in 1985, having studied physics, astronomy and geology, and concedes he did not have a clue what to do.

He noticed the amount of financial services job ads in the papers and took a clerical position with Sun Alliance in Nottingham.

After spending a year there, he was approached by Blackhorse Agencies in Cornwall. His decision to join may have been influenced by his love of surfing.

He stayed there for just over eight years and took on the responsibility of training 17 financial advisers to threshold level as part of his job as sales manager. Elms himself holds the FPC1.

He made the shift from sales to marketing on joining Merchant Investors, part of Allianz, in Bristol as market-ing services co-ordinator where his responsibilities included communicating with IFAs.

After three years, at the end of 1997, Elms moved to Eagle Star where he says: “I had the dream job of being responsible for sports sponsorship, including Arrows Formula One and Gloucester Cricket Club, as well as Eagle Star&#39s customer magazine.”

The threat of rationalisation of Eagle Star&#39s marketing function prompted Elms to look around and respond to an ad in marketing for marketing manager at Ifap.

“After an in-depth interview with Ann-Marie at a London restaurant I took her up on her offer.”

At Ifap, Elms says one of his big achievements is bringing the member database up to scratch as it plays a vital role in providing a value for money service for people looking for a local IFA.

“When I joined, there were 8,500 head office and branch addresses on the database, now there are 9,300, which is around 80 to 85 per cent of the IFA addresses available.”

Ifap&#39s commitment to serving the consumer works in parallel with Aifa&#39s lobby-ing work for IFAs. This year, they launched a joint guide giving comprehensive advice to IFAs on how to develop their presence on the internet.

Elms believes it is vital for IFAs to embrace technology to survive in an increasingly competitive environment and he points to the increased consumer willingness to look for information on financial services online.

In 1999, Ifap handled 92,000 online queries from the public looking for a local IFA – 8 per cent of total enquiries. Last year, 32 per cent of enquiries were online. This year, Elms predicts 60 per cent of total enquiries will be made over the internet.

“When people are looking for financial advice, IFAs cannot afford not to be in the virtual high street. IFAs ignore the internet at their peril.”

Another strategy being pushed by Elms is convincing consumer websites, such as Moneyextra, Find and This ismoney, to create links to the Ifap website. This has been done without any charge to Ifap and is giving many more consumers access.

Two new links recently created are to the Money Telegraph and to internet service provider Freeserve which has 30 per cent of the ISP market share.

Ifap is also in the middle of what it says is the first truly national IFA consumer campaign. It is running the If I Had All the Money in the World competition to raise money for 14 children&#39s hospitals around the UK.

So far, 500 children have submitted their drawings of what they would do with all the money in the world. The competition is being co-ordinated by 14 local IFAs and the national final is being held at the Imagination Gallery in London in June.

Elms finishes on a positive note, declaring his con-fidence in the future of the IFA sector despite threats to polarisation. His aim for the next five years is for Ifap to play a significant role in continuing to drive up IFA market share.

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