Spending nearly three whole days surrounded by hundreds of IFAs and
product providers on board a ship floating in the middle of nowhere does
not sound like too much fun.
However, I steeled myself for the task, packed my best bib and tucker and
arrived at Southampton docks on a sunny Sunday afternoon in time for tea on
For those who have never been on PIMS or have never heard of PIMS, let me
explain. The idea of the event is to meet as many people as you can as well
as attend seminars, think-tank sessions and conferences.
Before the event, product providers express a preference over who they
want to meet and by using the latest technology you express your
preferences as well.
It sounds a bit like some gameshow but the technology works and you end up
with lots of 25-minute sessions on a one-to-one basis as well as sharing
breakfast, lunch and dinner with different product prov-iders and IFAs.
To give you an idea of the range of attendees, I started off having
breakfast on the first day with a London stockbroking firm and ended up
having dinner on the last night with the FSA. I suspect that is an
opportunity that will not occur too often.
In between, I met with technology representatives, life company
representatives, consulting actuaries, investment managers… the list goes
on. While exhausting, I found the diversity of people far more stimulating
than just meeting life company representatives, which used to be the
original format. I even shared a table with an IFA who had flown over from
Malaysia. He went abroad some eight years ago having previously been a
journalist and now runs a salesforce of 25 consultants.
I also attended a whole range of seminars, which varied substantially in
content and quality. Not everything lives up to our different expectations,
which is why I was pleased to see the organisers provided feedback forms
which I duly completed.
At these events you come away with a strong feeling of what the major
concerns are. I can remember issues such as the pension review, regulation,
the recession, financial scandals all being important landmarks that
affected us all.
This year, however, the concerns seemed to be around polarisation, with
the greatest concern coming not from the IFAs but the product providers.
This is entirely understandable because now that most direct salesforces
have hung up their boots, product providers are even more dependent on the
ever-growing market share from independent advisers. Apparently, there are
more than 10 different scenarios being seriously discussed any one of
which, if implemented, could seriously affect a company's market share.
Unfortunately, no one seems to have a clue what is going to happen except
that most are concerned that multi-ties will become a reality. Conversely,
not one person could explain how a multi-tie would work, which leads me to
believe it probably will not happen.
As an IFA that specialises in investment, I have never been able to see
how a multi-tie would work for us especially as we recommend such a spread
of investment funds.
Therefore, maybe it is the life companies that become multi-tied as they
introduce more and more fund managers to their product ranges.
When that happens, the fund management companies will stop promoting their
funds directly to the IFA and we will only access their funds via the life
companies or the fund supermarkets. Taking that scenario to its logical
conclusion then, any IFA that is investment-oriented may only have to deal
through one source that provides the technology for all the wrappers and
all the funds. Maybe that is what they mean by multi-tied?
Steve Kelland, chairman and chief executive, Burns-Anderson Independent