Derek Bradley created PanaceaIFA as a means to improve service levels for small IFAs, taking lessons in part from 17th century marine insurers and from his time working as an air steward.
The web portal, of which Bradley is chief executive and which now has nearly 2,000 small directly authorised adviser members, was set up by the former IFA after witnessing the gulf between the service offered to big distributors’ members and that offered to the small independent adviser.
Bradley spent 18 years running his own small IFA business but, one year into his retirement in Spain following its sale, he was asked to do some consultancy work back in the UK that brought him in front of hundreds of small IFAs. He was shocked at the service gap in retail distribution between the large and small advisers.
“Even in the relatively short time I had become disengaged from the IFA industry, the small directly authorised adviser had become more and more divorced from the type of world I had been used to.
“There are a lot of financial demands for providers to focus on bulk but the small guy like me was still out there doing the business but without the same level of support and interaction with providers.”
Bradley saw this as an opportunity and began asking the industry whether more could be done to re-establish the link between providers and the little guy. He soon realised small IFAs needed a place where they could meet and a forum through which providers could communicate with them.
He looked to the history of his first employer, Lloyd’s of London, with its origins in a coffee house of the 17th century City of London where merchants and mariners met to discuss business. Financiers began offering insurance premiums to protect cargo and vessels. This grew and to this day its brokers do business from “coffee booths”.
“We wanted a coffee shop atmosphere, a place where like-minded people can access intelligence and business opportunities,” says Bradley. “We then combined that with a delivery vehicle to allow product providers to enter or re-enter the world of the small directly authorised adviser.”
Bradley set about bringing on board providers who would be able to run their own “shop window” on the site, offering educational and regulatory information to help the small IFA. The service launched with eight supporters and PanaceaIFA now has 22 providers with their own areas of the site. Members are able to access product and educational information from pension, protection and investment providers. They can communicate with the providers and with each other through a forum.
Bradley hopes to convince all the product providers of the merits of offering a better service to small IFAs. “It all goes back to resources. They have the resources for small directly authorised advisers but have no delivery vehicle for it. This project is proving if you can create a delivery vehicle to re-establish a connection, it has value.”
For Bradley, the service side of financial services is crucial. As a former broker consultant for Scottish Equitable, he understands how successful financial services can be when the provider works in tandem with the adviser. He says he also learned a lot about service after leaving Lloyd’s and taking a job as an air steward on one of the precursors to British Airways.
“It gave me the opportunity to travel to places people would give their right arm to see. It was the most amazing education in dealing with and understanding people. I understood that whatever walk of life you are in it is going to involve some form of service for someone, whether you are physically offering a form of service in the travel industry or you are looking after customers as an IFA. That is something so many organisations
have completely lost sight of.”
Bradley is confident this will change and that providers will be using PanaceaIFA and other such communication hubs to offer service to advisers following the retail distribution review.
“Bigger distributors are going to be adversely affected by the RDR. I was staggered at the sums of money given to distributors by the providers but after 2012 that element of financial support will not be able to be given as it is now.”
He says a change in remuneration coupled with falling numbers of advisers will see distributors struggle to maintain their cumbersome operations. He predicts there will be “a major rethink in how information is disseminated”.
Providers are now using the portal as a source of information and Bradley says this is enabling them to pinpoint users and tailor their service.
“It has always been difficult to get a view of what our IFAs do but we have been surveying their business and the results were phenomenal. In terms of levels of business, if all our small directly authorised advisers were a network, we would be the biggest distribution channel in the UK.”
Bradley says PanaceaIFA is aiming for 3,000 members by the end of 2010.
“More footfall on the site means we are able to better find out what business our IFA members do. That is very powerful because it then enables our supporting firms to get a relevant message out.”
Born: Southend on Sea, 1951
Lives: Southern Spain
Education: Westcliff High School, Southend College of Technology
Career: 2007-present: chief executive, PanaceaIFA; 1988-2006: IFA, Bradley Company; 1981-88: broker consultant, Scottish Equitable; 1972-80: air steward, British Airways; 1970-72: trainee, Bowring Lloyd’s marine reinsurance market
Likes: Tennis, skiing, sailing, golf, swimming, walking on beaches in front of my home with my family and friends
Dislikes: Arrogance, corporate inertia and excess, poorly thought-out and expensive regulation for the sake of it
Drives: Mercedes CLS and Mercedes SL sport
Books: Samuel Pepys’ Diaries or To The Last Man by Lyn MacDonald
Film: Apocalypse Now
Album: Any live albums by Tom Petty or Peter Gabriel
Career ambition: To see PanaceaIFA become the IFA equivalent of Lloyd’s Coffee House
Life ambition: To see my family happy and secure
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…Very bored and six stone lighter