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Matt Timmins

SimplyBiz’s joint managing director is confident that the support services model will prove successful in providing independent advisers the non-partisan guidance they need to help them rise to the challenges set by the RDR Interview by Lee Jones

At 31, SimplyBiz joint managing director Matt Timmins is perhaps one of the youngest managing directors in UK financial services and he aims to ensure the support services company rises to the challenges created by the retail distribution review and other industry developments.

“I have always been hugely driven, with an absolute desire to learn as much as I can and to run as fast as I can,” he says.

Timmins found his way into financial services by chance after taking a job in GE Capital’s call centre in Leeds after university but his marketing qualifications soon allowed him to move into the firm’s graphic design department. “I am probably the only colour-blind graphic designer there has ever been but considering the work was in black and white, it wasn’t too bad.”

He moved to DBS Financial and found himself in the middle of massive changes for the firm as well as the financial services sector as a whole:

“During my time at DBS, there was a change in regulator from the PIA to the FSA and at the same time DBS was purchased by Misys. I was also part of the team that helped develop Misys regulatory services, which is now Sesame Direct.”

This busy time allowed Timmins to learn a lot about financial services, financial advice and regulation. “I picked the regulatory stuff up as I went along. Obviously, when you are involved in any aspect of marketing you have to have an eye on regulation and risk.”

Timmins got his big break after Ken Davy and Ian Thorneycroft left DBS to set up SimplyBiz. Thorneycroft offered Timmins a marketing role in the new firm as it was being set up. “It was the most exciting time in my life at the age of 24 to be offered a role like that and to be involved in such a fantastic business. I will always look back at that with fondness.”

He has spent the last eight years helping build up and promote the firm and has now taken up the reins of joint managing director with Neil Stevens after former managing director Thorneycroft died earlier this year.

Timmins says: “Neil and myself have absolutely massive shoes to fill. Ian was a brilliant individual and a very committed guy. Working with him for nine years has taught us so much. Along with what we have learned from Ken, who needs no introduction, we are hopefully in the position to fill those shoes and do what the business requires to prosper.”

Timmins says one way the business will develop under his management will be a greater focus on overall business support, rather than simply compliance support.

He is confident in the success of the support services model following the retail distribution review. “If you are an IFA firm with a good grasp of compliance and a good knowledge of the business, why would you pay 15 per cent of your earnings to a network when you can receive the same type of service from a support firm for 2.5 per cent?”

Timmins also hopes SimplyBiz will continue to develop its not-for-profit organisation, the New Model Business Academy. He says he hopes to build on the 5,000 users of the service in the run-up to and beyond RDR, helping stave off the predicted adviser exodus by encouraging IFAs to take the new exams. “The biggest challenge for IFAs still remains the examinations. While maybe 18 months ago there were question marks around whether IFAs would have to take the exams and therefore decided not to, IFAs are realising now this is cast in stone and they have to make a commitment.”

Timmins says SimplyBiz is ready to launch a factoring service for members if the demand is there but he is not sure how many would require it.

“Offering factoring to members is a feasible proposition and one we have investigated to a great degree. However, the change in the remuneration model will not affect IFAs half as much as people think. It will be a big issue for the networks as they essentially get paid by the product provider through their own agency, take their own cut and then pay back the IFA.

“So far, less than 10 per cent of our membership have felt they need a factoring service, so that is why we have not gone to the lengths of setting one up as yet.”

Timmins says the firm may also offer a loan service for those IFAs who need help with increased capital adequacy demands. “For those for which it is an issue, we will look to provide essentially a loan facility,” he says.

Timmins is confident that SimplyBiz’s proposition will thrive after the RDR is implemented because independent advisers will demand independent partners. Since Standard Life bought Threesixty earlier this year, he says SimplyBiz is one of the few remaining independent support services firms, although Standard owns a 10 per cent stake. “Firms that subscribe to SimplyBiz value independence first and foremost, so it is important that we retain our independence.

“Compliance is always changing, whether it is the RDR this week or Mifid the next. Whatever the rules, IFAs will always need support. Now, with news of the new regulator in the Bank of England, there may be new rules and requirements, proving there will always be a need for a compliance support firm.

Born: Wolverhampton, 1978
Lives: Huddersfield
Education: Wolgarston High School, University of Derby (MA Marketing and Chartered Institute of Marketing)
Career: 2002-present: marketing director, joint managing director, Simply Biz Group; 2000-02: marketing co-ordinator, Misys/DBS Financial Management; 1998-2000: marketing designer, GE Capital
Likes: Energy, passion, change, building something from conception through to delivery
Dislikes: Arrogance, lack of morals, long meetings and any technology not made by Apple
Drives: Aston Martin Vantage
Book: Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Geoffrey Archer
Film: Memento
Album: Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
Career ambition: To know I have made a difference by supporting IFAs in delivering a first-class service to their clients
Life ambition: To live a long and happy life with family and friends and retire to somewhere sunny If I wasn’t doing this I would be running my own marketing and new media business

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