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Identity crisis

At our last Meeting of Minds event, which brings together the chiefs of all the top distribution firms, a key conversation was the trend towards offering defined service solutions to the client.

However, the view was expressed that it is sometimes difficult to offer a defined service solution where the person representing the corporate entity in its dealings with the client is not branded with this corporate identity and in some cases is seen as practically a freelancer.

As the wave of RDR change washes over the industry and, whether or not you agree it has been successful, you have to admit that business models are subject to re-examination, maybe now is the time to focus on strengthening the relationship between the corporate and its clients.

I think we will all agree that “trusted brand status” is likely to become a rather well worn phrase over the next few months as wealth managers seek to draw a line between their financial service offerings and those of the banks.

Your poor old clients are desperate for reassurance and, much as they might trust their IFA, would they not feel a lot more comfortable if they had full confidence in the company behind the IFA?

There are companies where the key contact point for a client is their IFA’s mobile and not much else or advisers are using their own personal letterhead. In other words, little evidence that they are backed up by a good, solid, reliable entity.

What solutions were on offer? Well, the most obvious was to increase the various “touch points” with the firm. I am not wild about the phrase but it does say it how it is – a range of services, access points and communications designed to strengthen the bond. If your company was to provide access to specialists in areas such as tax planning, that would immediately broaden the relationship. A useful website with market updates would encourage interaction, an emailed newsletter might help them feel the business cared about them as much as their IFA.

Not rocket science, but such a response is acceptable only if you are doing something about it. To allow clients to be looked after by an “asset” who could easily move to a better paying firm and take said clients along does not exactly sound terribly sensible to the chiefs of the big distributors.

But it is not about marginalising the IFA. Big distribution firms need to do more to encourage them into the corporate entity. Right now, with the looming demands of qualifications and the prospect of dealing with rather less easy- going clients, they might just be rather tempted to come further into the fold.

So, while putting together that defined service proposition, how about creating a defined employment proposition that will be attractive to the advisers? That way, everyone wins.

Evie Owen is joint managing director of Owen James, organisers of A Meeting of Minds

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