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
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
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's 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's
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's 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
Maguire's 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
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's not the end
of the world, is it?”