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My life has totally chan ged in six months,” says Mark Wilkins, the 39-year-old consultant and former IFA who finds himself on the inside track of BSkyB’ master plan to launch a multimedia broadcast service to IFAs.
The multi-million-pound venture, branded The Fin an cial Channel, aims to offer a platform for product providers to communicate with IFAs and other intermediaries, provide news and analysis and offer inter active continuing professional development.
Wilkins has found himself inv olved in the venture thr ough his role as commercial director and co-founder of e-nable, which launched in September and is part of major independent marketing agency Dyn amo Marketing Group.
Wilkins acts as a consultant to IFAs looking to maxi mise the application of the internet to their business.
He believes the future of the IFA community lies not in abandoning the old but effective work practices in favour of new technology but combining the tried and tested with the novel.
“One of the biggest pressures IFAs face is administration and not meeting their targets. You need things like the internet to help cut down admin and cut down the sales process in order to free up more selling and advisory time.”
In his consultancy work with Sky, Wilkins is the critical link to what amounts to unchar ted territory for the cor poration.
He says: “IFAs are not an endange red species but they do need more protection. If the latest pro posals on polarisation threaten to muddy the water further, then it is up to them to make them clear and demonstrate to their clients the value of their service. We have not been good enough at doing this in the past.”
Strangely, perhaps, Wilk ins says the message he communicates to clients is inspired by listening to music by The Jam and the Sex Pistols in his earlier days.
“The leather, spiky hair and studs may have gone but the attitude has definitely stayed. IFAs have to be themselves and not let themselves be ground down and accept everything that is thrown at them. You have to fight back and be slightly rebellious to get your voice heard.”
On meeting Wilkins, you get the feeling he cannot quite believe his luck and his enthusiasm for Sky’ project is inf ectious. His exc ite ment brims over as he discusses his work.
Wilkins started his career in financial services as a broker consultant at Clerical Med ical, Standard Life, Friends Provi dent and Royal Life. From an early stage, he took a specia lised interest in pensions and has remained close to the field.
In 1991, he joined Lloyds Bank Insurance Services and specialised for four years in servicing corporate clients in the West End and City of London.
He then joined the pension team at Rathbones, acting principally as a consultant on self-invested personal pensions and small self-administered schemes.
Taking responsible for Sipp marketing gave Wilkins the opportunity to develop his seminar and conference speaking, something which he relishes.
He joined Legal & General in 1998 as regional pension manager for the southern counties and was promoted to pension marketing manager for high-net-worth pension products early this year.
This role saw him presenting IFA seminars and delivering G60 training courses to IFAs and broker consultants and, in 1999, he co-wrote, des igned and presented the L&G pension roadshows.
Helping Sky on such iss ues as training and competence is a return to another of his favourite areas.
Wilkins says if he were not pursuing his current career, he would have been a teacher. “The L&G roadshows were the closest I have come to living out my original childhood ambition of becoming a tea cher. It was something of a dream come true.”
But Wilkins has no regrets about parting ways with L&G. He says he is glad to be free of corporate shackles.
“When you work within the industry, you cannot always say exactly what you think. When you leave, you find people want to know what you really think.”
Wilkins was born in Mai denhead, Berkshire, and now lives near Ascot with his wife and two children.
He has a keen interest in rowing and can boast that he has beaten five-times Oly mpic gold medallist Steve Redgrave – even if he was only 15 years old at the time.
Just as Redgrave’ commit ment has brought him success, so Wilkins emp hasises how IFAs have to apply themselves to grow their businesses.
He says: “All IFAs have to maintain their CPD and the demands are likely to get heavier. But finding the time to attend often expensive seminars can prove a problem. Sky already has the technology which automatically generates a compliance trail for CPD by logging viewing. It also has the technology which could allow IFAs to select yes or no answers in online multiple-choice tests.
“This provides a huge opportunity to train back-office staff and stay up to the minute with the latest products which can be reviewed by a panel live on air.”
The Sky project aims to raise standards and encourage best practice. Hopefully, this will enable Wilkins to encourage IFAs to stand up for themselves and show the rest of the country they provide a service worth keeping.


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