A self-confessed “enlightened socialist”, Skandia director of investments Jim Roberts is ready to attack some of the FSA's stances with vigour. The Liverpudlian is currently leading a protest against the regulator's position that past performance is no guide to the future.
At Skandia's Pathfinder conference last week, Roberts announced the life office will be writing to the FSA with evidence to the contrary.
After his views were reported in Money Marketing, Roberts was invited by the FSA to make his case and is now putting together a paper based on the evidence he presented at Pathfinder.
“There is more to past performance than simple numbers. Is looking at a table in isolation at one moment in time a guide? No. Past performance is evidence of the way someone behaves over time,” he claims.
Roberts argues the approach the FSA is taking is the same as looking at a still photograph without considering how the scene came about or what will happen in the future.
When examined over time, he says past performance is a real entity which provides an insight into how a fund is run.
“The FSA has been got at by lobbying from some tracker managers who say active management is a waste of time. There is also a negativity among certain bodies of the Government that fund managers get paid too much.”
At his meeting with the FSA, Roberts says he will show the high correlation between past and future volatility. He says funds reflect the nature of the fund manager and both will behave in a certain way through time as, like leopards, they do not change their spots.
He argues that past performance gives IFAs useful information to help clients build their fund portfolios and he is an advocate of the value of independent advice. “As a free marketeer and enlightened socialist, I do not believe in the suppression of truth and the regulators should only regulate as needed.”
Roberts is convinced that, as the population's wealth continues to increase, IFAs will play a much needed role.
Discussing current issues affecting IFAs, Roberts says he is keenly opposed to changes to polarisation and thinks these are politically motivated. He is also concerned the Government is trying to force IFAs down the path of switching from commission to fees.
If the Government would sort out the inequality of commission being VAT-free while fees are liable to VAT, then Roberts says he might have more sympathy with the Government's view.
But the Blair regime's belief that a simple product cannot be missold disturbs Roberts and he believes the launch of stakeholder has made pensions more rather than less complicated. “Stakeholder is another political device like replacing Peps with Isas.”
On his career, the 50-year-old says, half-jokingly: “I want to make Skandia even more successful than it is. We are aiming for world domination.”
Skandia currently has between 10 and 15 per cent of unit-linked IFA business but Roberts believes there is more to success than market share and, as an organisation, Skandia is focused on achieving results.
One recent initiative to develop Skandia's business is the link to John Duffield's New Star fund management company, whose recent high-profile launch made the industry sit up and take notice. This is the first time Skandia has linked all its products to a new company and Roberts is convinced this will be a successful partnership.
“There has never been a launch like New Star. John Duffield is determined and driven, a good motivator of fund managers and has a significant IFA following,” says Roberts,
He says Skandia is also making big strides in e-commerce and, although he does not believe financial products should be sold over the internet, he believes it is invaluable for providing service and a great way to contact clients.
Skandia plans to launch its new Uselect online portfolio management system later this year to help IFAs lead clients through the world of investments.
Roberts is passionate about work and this enthusiasm extends to his personal life, including his love of Liverpool Football Club. Brought up in Liverpool, Roberts read maths at the University of Warwick and graduated in 1972.
He is a fully qualified actuary, having worked with Schroder Life and Abbey Life before joining Skandia.
He now lives in Southampton and indulges in hobbies which satisfy his urges as a “speed freak”, including sailing and frequent skiing trips with his partner, Autif communications director Anne McMeehan. He sails an 18ft catamaran and is excited at the prospect of investing in a speedboat this year.
Describing himself also as an avid reader and lover of opera, Roberts talks enthusiastically of his imminent trip to La Scala in Milan to see Turandot.
The FSA should get ready to react to Roberts' views as he is not ready to relax and put his feet up. His passion for investment looks set to continue.