Industry movers and shakers do not come with a much higher profile than Jim Gaskin.
When Gaskin, 55, resigned as chairman of Misys IFA Ser vices in May with what seem ed from the outside like cloak and dagger secrecy, the industry was left wondering where he would move to.
Six months later he has resurfaced at none other than Misys' arch-rival, The Excha nge, where he will be corporate development director.
The Exchange certainly regards his appointment as a coup. It has some real work to do to claw back support from the IFA sector which felt alienated by its shift towards the consumer sector.
It has now placed both feet firmly back in the business-to-business arena and the stren gth of Gaskin's reputation in the industry could have tre mendous pulling power.
Gaskin's experience in the IFA sector is unrivalled, having been membership and enforcement director at Fim bra and the PIA and managing director of Country wide bef ore becoming chairman at Misys IFA Services.
He was so important to the Misys group that they kept his resignation secret for fear of the damage it would do to the company.
There is no doubt of the respect that IFAs have for Gaskin. Countrywide members shock ed by his departure from the Misys group continue to speak highly of him.
He chose the title of corporate development director rather than chairman because it is often taken to mean a non-executive role. But Gaskin is certainly gearing himself up for a hands-on approach at The Exchange.
He will be working to reposition The Exchange as a maj or service provider in the business-to-business arena. He describes the company's business plan as wanting to become a powerhouse for any organisation wishing to distribute financial products to customers. And this could be throu gh multi-distribution channels.
He is, however, totally committed to the IFA sector and hopes to lead by example in showing IFAs the only way they can survive in the industry is by embracing change and technology.
He says he has to reinvent himself and is encouraging IFAs to reinvent themselves too, to make sure they hold on to the lion's share of an ever-growing market.
He says: “We will all have to change if we want to reap the benefits of a bigger marketplace. Any opportunity to reduce costs is very important and technology is key to this. I'm very excited by what we can do at The Exchange to achieve this.”
But he does regret that the industry has to be dragged through the polarisation deb ate yet again. He says: “I support the current polarisation regime. The public has just become aware of the concept of independent advice and the changes they are bringing in will confuse the consumer.”
But he is in no doubt that the IFA sector will continue to thrive. He says: “IFAs are very resilient and will continue their hold on the market. But there will be a lot of heavy fighting. And I'll be there fighting very hard, continuing to promote the IFA's cause.”
The Exchange says it wants to make use of Gaskin's regulatory experience. The current role and responsibilities of the regulator in the ind ustry is in continuing debate, but Gaskin does have sympathy with the current law enfor cers.
He says: “The FSA is a huge body which has to cover many different types of institutions. That's quite hard to manage. They have to cover difficult issues and I have some sympathy with them. The toughest area for the current regulator to deal with is on the small scale, such as regulating best advice. And that is one of the most important things to get right.”
Using technology to assist the regulator in carrying out compliance is one of the ideas The Exchange is currently working on. Gaskin is keen to look at the opportunities inv olved in it. He says: “You can use technology to do it. Rather than sending out a compliance officer to an individual business, if that firm is conducting business using technology, the regulator can test it remo tely. And that can only help to bring down costs.”
He does think the regulator is making an effort to help the IFA sector in its drives to make the business more professional. He says: “IFAs are seeking the trappings of professionalism and the regulator is helping by reducing the number of designatory letters and overhauling the academic qualifications.”
He left Misys without ano ther job to go to. He punted his CV aro und to see what would come his way and says he was offered some very int eresting opportunities.
But he believes that he has found the right home at The Exchange.
Gaskin says he has borrowed his working ethics from Dutch insurer Aegon. He sha res its values that people want to work somewhere where they can make money, enjoy themselves, help the business grow and where they are respected.
He says the culture at The Exchange matches this.