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Jon maguire

I f you are an IFA, Jon Maguire could be a man worth getting to know. As

chief executive of Sway – or “chief chimp” as he prefers to call himself –

a large part of his time is spent selecting the most important IFAs and

sending them on all expenses paid trips to investment conferences in sunny

climates.

For the 100 or so IFAs who are lucky enough to have made it on to his hit

list, visits to Monte Carlo and Malta are already on the cards for next

year. For those he deems to be among the top 1,000 IFAs, he is lining up a

roadshow featuring 10 providers which will be touring seven major UK venues

in October.

Since its first senate conference at the Lanesborough Hotel in London last

January, Maguire says Sway has come a long way. Built on an increasing

realisation that IFAs did not have the time to attend lots of single

provider roadshows, Maguire decided to provide fund managers with an

alternative way of reaching key intermediaries.

He says: “The top end of the intermediary arena was just not catered for

before. The events were time-pressured, cramming things into one day, or

there was PIMS where there were all the problems two years ago with the

pool being empty and the TVs being ripped out of the bedrooms. It was as if

we were not human beings or could not be trusted anymore.”

Sway&#39s first major conference followed in Monte Carlo last summer, after

which Maguire says the phone has never stopped ringing.

Having brought together 17 providers and 80 intermediaries in Monte Carlo,

Maguire found himself with a waiting list of 16 fund managers volunteering

to sponsor the next event and a queue of IFAs keen to be selected.

The Madrid conference, which followed this May, saw Maguire raise the

number of providers to 26, with 110 delegates. However, the crammed

itinerary and boosted numbers sowed the first seeds of dissatisfaction

among sponsors, leading to five major providers turning their back on Sway

to launch their own rival conference next spring.

With names such as Schroders, M&G, Invesco Perpetual, Aberdeen and SG

missing from his events, there is a strong argument that the Sway

proposition will be weakened. But Maguire seems unfazed by the departures.

“If you speak to the delegates, they will say they see plenty of the big

groups. The people they do not see all the time are the people they want to

spend three days with. There is a tendency in the delegate community to

want to see boutiques and not necessarily the big names.

“Putting an event together is tricky. Clearly, you do need the support of the

people who are committed to the market – the big groups – and, no, we are not

happy that five of them have decided to club together and do their own

thing but it is not the end of our world.”

M aguire concedes that the Madrid conference may have been slightly

intensive and is looking to work more networking time into next year&#39s

itinerary. But he remains adamant that his conferences are not meant simply

to be a jolly.

“There are two sorts of intermediary out there. There are the workers,

people who get up at eight in the morning and work through till six in the

evening. That, to them, is a working day and we have had no problems with

those people about our conference. But there are some people who get up at

10 in the morning, look at their portfolios, buy a few units, sell a few,

have a nice lunch and play golf in the afternoon. Of course, to them it is

a shock but it is a conference.”

Maguire believes the withdrawal of the five big names was due mainly to

their annoyance at the high number of sponsors. But despite Sway&#39s decision

to reduce the number from 26 to 20 for the next conference, the five could

not be persuaded to stay. Maguire now believes their decision to club

together will produce a far weaker offering than the Sway senate programme.

“If providers think that by clubbing together they can produce a cosy

little club, then forget it. They are competitors and it has to be seen

that way. We found the Schroders/M&G tour was tame because they do not want

to offend each other and yet they should. The conferences need to be run by

someone independent. We will represent the delegates in a far more

vociferous manner.”

Maguire&#39s dedication to the intermediary has perhaps been the key to the

success of Sway. Having worked as an IFA, a product developer at Legal &

General and a sales manager at Save & Prosper, he is well known by

providers and intermediaries.

His first job as a police officer on the streets of Birmingham more than

prepared him for the confrontation and conflict of the IFA and fund

management worlds. As a fan of Bristol City football club, he confesses

also that he is no stranger to disappointment.

Maguire appears to have an unbreakable confidence that the Sway idea is

robust despite the defections. While he says he is a fan of PIMS, he

believes the organisers are still confused over what they are trying to

achieve.

As for the five breakaways, he says he is grateful to them for making the

hard decision of chopping the number of senate sponsors to 20 from 26. “I

needed to lose six and I have lost five. So there you go – it&#39s not the end

of the world, is it?”

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