Keydata is ruffling a few feathers with its latest Isa survey but retail sales director Mark Owen says that is not what the company is all about. According to Owen, Keydata is there to make life easier for the IFA.
Owen's enthusiasm for the service knows no bounds. Although he admits he can be over-enthusiastic at times, he says jumping into things with all guns blazing has seen him right in the past. “I wish sometimes I didn't just rush into things but it usually turns out for the best.”
Thirty-eight-year-old Owen only joined Keydata seven months ago but there is no doubt he is a born-again multi-manager. “I firmly believe no one investment house or product is the answer to every investor's prayers. You need to have a choice and simple access to it.”
Before hitting the road to Damascus, Owen was a director at Eurolife. During his two years with the life office he was instrumental in devising the sales and administration processes that supported Eurolife's Pep consolidator product. Owen was there throughout its development and launch and it was when Eurolife was looking outside for support that he first came into contact with Keydata.
He says he always liked the idea of what Skandia and the like were doing and when Keydata came on the scene he was hooked.
After studying finance and accounting, his first foray into the financial world came when he tried to raise capital for a debt equity family farming project in Brazil. “At the time, the Brazilian government was encouraging debt equity but just before completion it did a U-turn.” He is philosophical about the turn of events, saying: “Things could have been very different. I could have been in living in Brazil. As it is I'm in East Sussex but I can't complain.”
Owen persevered and carved out a career in financial services. Prior to his short stint at Eurolife, he spent 10 years at Johnson Fry where he was director of intermediary sales.
Now Owen has the task of raising the company profile in the IFA market. When asked if he is starting from a good base, he says: “The company now has a sufficient profile in the industry. It has been around long enough for people to use the service properly. My remit is to try to make sure we are seen as a value-added service.”
Keydata was established three and a half years ago, originally as a multimedia company to address compliance and disclosure issues. When it started, it had only 10 fund companies on board. It now has 40, giving its 11,000 IFA subscribers access to over 6,000 funds.
To make sure the added-value message gets through, a team was brought in at the end of November to walk IFAs and fund managers through the service.
“We are not a dotcom and neither are we trying to be a fund supermarket, IFAs cannot transact through us, we are a business-writing tool. What we want to do is help IFAs write business simply, we can offer quick and easy information at your fingertips.”
Someone out there seems to be taking note. Since the start of the year, Keydata has seen an average of 500 registered individuals signing up each month.
Owen has high hopes for the company. “Five years down the line, I would like to see all the fund managers on board and Keydata offering a broader range of funds, from different sectors.”
Owen says when he is out on the road, it is the compliance and training officers who are particularly impressed by the service.
“They love it. It is a very simple tool for new recruits to use. As IFAs have a complicated enough time of it, we try to keep things simple.”
Owen, a father of two, likes to keep things simple in his private life too.
A keen follower of “country pursuits” as he says, he will not be drawn on what form those pursuits take, saying instead he learnt early on to button it rather than get people's backs up.
Although he keeps horses, they do not play a part of his country pursuits. It is his wife who is the equestrian of the household. “I just have the pleasure of paying for it all.”
The one-time rugby win-ger says he does not suffer fools gladly and he counters criticisms about Keydata's surveys by pointing to the fact the results reflect the views and experiences of IFAs.