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David Ingram

Threesixty services is five years old this month and co-founder David Ingram is upbeat about the progress it has made so far, with the support services group now having 527 client firms.

“We have hit our business projections every year, I am pleased to say,” he says.

Ingram’s route into financial services was not straightforward. As a member of his school’s combined cadet force, he considered an army career before choosing to study law at University College London. On graduation, he joined Sun Life Assurance as a pension administration clerk before moving to the tax planning department. He has also worked as an IFA for Cooperative Financial Advisers and run his own business, the Technical Advice Centre, where most of his clients came from the Bankhall network.

When Bankhall decided to move the service in house, Ingram says the offer to join could not be turned down. Threesixty was born out of Bankhall several years later.

“We wanted to work on a basis that was not related to turnover but more related to the actual work that we do to support the IFA firm. We could not do that at Bankhall so we decided to go off and do it ourselves.”

He says this approach was supported by a number of clients at Bankhall who told him: “We very much like dealing with you but we would rather do it on a different basis.”

This included moving away from a charging model based on a percentage of commission earned by an adviser to a fee per service basis. Bankhall has also now adopted this model.

Ingram says this method of charging is a fairer reflection of the services that each IFA firm uses. It is a good example of the attention to quality that he says is central to the Threesixty business.

“We have no members at all, we have clients. It is a really important differentiator. Most of the IFA community understand what they would do to look after their best clients and we know that ethos applies to us as well. Our clients are very important to us.”

Alongside Ingram, there were two other founding partners, David Brattesani and Ross McArthur. The number of partners has now risen to eight and last year Standard Life took a small stake in the firm.

Ingram will not be drawn on the size of Standard’s stake but says it has not changed the way the company operates. However, it has brought in additional funds to help the business grow.

“What Standard Life has done is invest in something that will grow and be part of the IFA marketplace. It has given us the working capital which we needed to enhance our proposition.”

This growth is more likely to be in the quality and number of services offered to clients rather than in the number of firms it takes on as clients.

Ingram says Threesixty’s strength, at least initially, was in its compliance and technical support services and he is keen to point out the number of Threesixty staff who have worked for the regulator in the past.

“Compliance and technical support were the first things we came to market with because we knew there was a demand for that. Working with our client firms, we have added services to that, so we now have business development support and we have done a lot of product research work. We also work with firms quite closely to enhance their own IT.”

It is training that Ingram sees as the most interesting area at present but he says the changing regulatory landscape is where the biggest challenges will come from in future. “Most of the retail distribution review is to be expected and, in fact, to be welcomed.”

He particularly awaits clarification on customer-agreed remuneration, as he says it currently seems to allow certain amount of leeway on commission. Qualifications are another area he thinks the RDR will improve.

“We would expect to see some real moves forward in the qualification benchmarks for various levels of the market.”

Threesixty has a big overlap with membership of the Personal Finance Society and Sofa, so Ingram says most of its clients are well on the way to the highest qualifications but it will be making an effort to extend this to all IFAs. “We will be working hard with the principals to build the qualifications of their other advisers.”

Looking to the future, Ingram says there is “more of the same” for Threesixty. “We have got a model that is working and no one has successfully copied it. We work very closely with the IFA firms we already have on board to see what additional services we should be providing.”

Ingram says the business also tries to listen to the concerns of IFAs in terms of the quality of service it offers and this is one of the things that will determine the potential size of the business.

He says Threesixty intends to have 600 client firms by the end of 2008 but may not get much bigger than that in terms of client numbers.

“Existing clients are keen that we do not get too big and we are very keen that we do not get too big. It is very much a hands-on personal business, so 600 to 700 firms is probably about it.”

Born: Forest Hill, London, 1958

Lives: Stockport

Education: St Dunstan’s College, University College London

Likes: Real ale (in moderation), tax legislation changes

Dislikes: This year’s Welsh rugby team

Drives: Saab 95

Favourite book: The Bible

Favourite film: The Bourne Identity

Favourite music: Handel’s Messiah

Career ambition: To be a partner in the country’s leading financial services support provider

If I wasn’t doing this I would be… In the army

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