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John Porteous

Born: Edinburgh in 1970.

Lives: Brentwood, Essex, with wife Liz.

Career: Left Inverkeithing High School to join Scottish Widows in 1988.

Broker consultant with Scottish Widows, Abbey Life and Murray Johnstone until 1998, then joined Robson Rhodes as an IFA. Joined Kingsbridge Financial in 1999.

Career ambition:

To continue to improve as an IFA.

Life ambition: To look over my shoulder and have no regrets and a clear conscience. To play off scratch at golf.

Likes: Family, people who keep their promises, listening to and playing rock and roll music, Highland Park whisky.

Dislikes: Two-faced people, lack of ambition, timewasters, Jack Daniels bourbon.

Car: Alfa Romeo 156.

Peers say: “He is typical of the new breed of professional fee-based IFA. He is proved right a lot of the time in thingshe says.”

You are a 31-year-old who sits on the board of a successful IFA business and relaxes by headbanging to heavy metal music. So why would you want to spend your spare evenings talking about exams? What is it that makes Kingsbridge Financial director and Sofa chairman John Porteous tick?

Describing the qualities he believes a Sofa chairman needs, Porteous reveals something of what has driven him to lead the financial advisers&#39 professional body.

“Perseverance and an unshakeable belief in the role of financial advice and that advice is not a dirty word – these are the qualities that my successor will require,” he says.

The son of a senior civil servant and and a health visitor, Porteous describes his upbringing as “supportive and ambitious”, which is an accurate description of the man himself.

He left school at 18 and went straight to work in back-office administration at Scottish Widows in his native Edinburgh. “People said I was a dreadful administrator but I soon realised I was good on the phone with the punters so I ended up on the sales side. I fell into the job but as soon as I was doing it I realised it was the thing that I really wanted to do.”

After six years as a broker consultant with Widows, Abbey Life and Murray Johnstone, Porteous joined high-net-worth IFA Kingsbridge Financial in 1998 and is now on the board.

He became Sofa chairman a year and a half ago and is due to step down next February. After press criticism for failing to make his presence felt in his first months as Sofa chairman, Porteous has worked hard to raise his profile on the IFA conference circuit and says he is enjoying his role.

He sees Sofa&#39s key objectives as increasing the membership and developing members&#39 professionalism and profile in financial services. Signing up 300 new members in the last 12 months has brought the current membership to nearly 9,000.

“For me, the lowest point of my chairmanship of Sofa was when I got trashed in the press. No one likes that. But the high points have been the conferences and events, speaking at Sofa events and getting a feel for what is happening and what the members are thinking.”

Sofa&#39s membership base includes those advisers thought most likely to remain independent in a depolarised world. But Porteous believes it is still a case of waiting and seeing what impact the new marketplace will have on Sofa&#39s membership.

“We look after IFAs, brokers and tied agents. We get the impression that a lot of IFAs want to remain independent but the commercial reality is that, with time, they will review their position. Whether all those who try to remain independent can do it remains to be seen. We are something completely new.”

Porteous predicts that, in a depolarised world, the true independent advisers of the future will have a higher training requirement than today&#39s IFAs. “The powers that be are talking about higher standards. That could translate to AFPC or similar for the independent side. If you are calling yourself an adviser, you have got to have some qualification that really distinguishes you for that.”

He prefers Sandler&#39s approach to fees to the one proposed by the FSA in CP121, not least because Sandler makes it absolutely clear that VAT will not be chargeable.

But while Porteous can see the logic in calls for IFAs to improve their own standards of professionalism and training, he has no time for the extension of the stakeholder concept to a suite of vanilla products sold with no advice.

“If you have people with no qualifications selling products to the most vulnerable people in society, then misselling will happen. I flatly disagree with Sandler&#39s proposal to remove advice from the sales process for these products that are arguably more important to poorer people than richer people.”

The prickly issue of whether the professional and trade bodies should merge is one he would rather sidestep. “With all of the changes in the industry, no one knows what the trade and professional bodies will look like in the future. We enjoy a dialogue with the LIA, the IFP and Aifa but a single trade body is not high on the agenda. Rule nothing out, rule nothing in.”

Porteous steps down from his post in February after two years in the job. He says: “I have done my bit. I have been in Out of Context every week. I run a big IFA so have lots on my plate. Rather than talking about it, I am going back to doing it.”

He feels that he deserves more time to enjoy his favourite pastimes – taking in a Hibs game, working on his golf handicap and headbanging to heavy rock.

As a director of Kingsbridge Financial, Porteous is understandably coy about what road he will take after he steps down as Sofa chairman. He says he would like to stay on as a Sofa director and focus his energies on helping run his firm. But it is certain that when he hands over the chairmanship next spring, it will not mark his exit from the Money Marketing Diary pages.


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