The battle for the UK platform market has been raging for some time but with the FCA’s plans for rebates now clear, the fight for market share is sure to heat up again.
Aviva’s platform has been one of the big success stories of the past couple of years. Since its launch in 2010, it has already gained £1.5bn of assets under administration and grew by 25 per cent in the first quarter of this year.
Aviva UK Life intermediary director Andrew Beswick says the growth is due to the platform being well tailored to its target market.
He says: “It is aimed at being a simple mid-market platform, offering really good value but crucially not building on bells and whistles that the customers pay for but never use. It is the fastest growing because people like the fact that we are really clear about what we are good at but we are also clear about the things we are not good at. I think people appreciate that honesty.”
Beswick did not set out with a plan to work in financial services. Having graduated with a geography degree from Liverpool University in 1991, he attended a careers fair with the hope of finding inspiration as to what to do next. He came across insurance company Eagle Star and landed a role as a sales consultant.
“I really liked the idea of talking to people and understanding advisers’ businesses. I liked how complicated it was but also how people-orientated it was. I just fell into it and really enjoyed it,” he says.
Beswick moved on to a sales consultant role with Commercial Union before joining Winterthur Life as a business development manager.
He subsequently moved to Norwich Union, now Aviva, as a pension development manager and has since held various roles within the company, including regional manager, head of sales and head of key account management. However, Beswick says his current role as intermediary director has taught him the most.
“I got my position at a time when there was a massive change in the industry. The build-up to the RDR and the post-RDR environment and the dominance of platforms have all taken place since I took on this role. With the amount of changes that have gone on in the industry, it has been an amazing time.”
Beswick is responsible for Aviva’s intermediary teams, including business development managers, key account managers and investment specialists as well as platform operation specialists and platform adoption teams.
“My career, pretty much exclusively within financial services, has been about supporting advisers. Just about all the roles I have had have been about supporting advisers, understanding their businesses, understanding the challenges they face and working with them to see how best they can serve customers.”
Beswick also works closely with the Aviva platform, which has recently been integrated with Aviva for Advisers. He says the integration of the platform was necessary to provide adviser efficiency, giving them quick access to client records and the ability to carry out simple administration tasks such as looking up valuations and client changes of address.
Beswick says his main focus has been, and will continue to be, on ensuring that Aviva supports the adviser community during a time of difficult challenges in the industry.
One of the biggest challenges faced so far has been the RDR. Beswick says Aviva’s New Thinking campaign, launched in the months leading up to the RDR, supported advisers in learning how to talk to their customers about the changes to adviser charging. The provider produced a book containing the necessary information and according to Beswick: “If the book had been a business novel, it would have been a top 10 bestseller.”
“We know advisers were thinking: ‘How do we have this conversation with customers when commission disappears and adviser charging comes in?’ The New Thinking campaign was aimed at that challenge and in a very pragmatic sense: ‘This is how you adapt and this is how you change your communication.’”
Beswick says Aviva is planning another New Thinking campaign for 2013, this time providing practical help and guidance for advisers on the use of social media to strengthen their relationships with clients and generate new business.
He is determined to ensure that Aviva continues to be the fastest-growing platform and says it needs to focus heavily on developing the skills to deliver that.
“You have to be very clear about the type of market you are aiming for because you can’t be distracted,” he says.
“You have got to keep building your proposition aimed specifically at that marketplace.”
It is no secret that the adviser industry is shrinking. FSA figures showed the number of advisers fell by 20 per cent between December 2011 and the launch of the RDR. However, the number of bank advisers fell by 44 per cent during this period as a large number of firms which have axed their advice arms.
Aviva is no exception, recently announcing it is to stop offering fully advised sales to new customers across all life products from 31 May this year.
Beswick acknowledges that the fall in adviser numbers is worrying but says the decision to axe Aviva’s advice service was due to customer demand for other means of providing advice and guidance as well as the cost of advice provision.
“We were thinking very hard about what the future looks like and how we can most efficiently deliver services and guidance to our side of the market and that was the backbone of the decision,” he says.
“It is true to say that providing advice isn’t a cheap thing to do and people need to work out how they can do it most efficiently, helping the customers most effectively and giving them a service that they value.”
However, Beswick is very optimistic about the future of the advice industry and believes there is still consumer demand. Advisers just need to approach their businesses in the right way.
“I think the key thing, and the very best advisers are doing this, is working out exactly what it is that their customers want,” he says.
“If their customers want to be contacted via ecommerce or they want face-to-face advice, or if they only want to see an adviser when they have got a point of need, advisers need to evolve their business models to be in line with customers’ demands.”
Born: Fleetwood, Lancashire, 1969
Lives: Whitechapel, Lancashire
Education: BA Geography, Liverpool University
Career: 2010–present: intermediary director, Aviva UK Life; 2009-10: head of key account management, Aviva UK Life; 2004-09: head of sales, Aviva/Norwich Union; 2001-04, regional manager, Norwich Union; 1999-2001: pension development manager, CGU/Norwich Union; 1998-99: business development manager, Winterthur Life; 1994-98, sales consultant, Commercial Union/CGU; 1991-94: sales consultant, Eagle Star
Likes: Running and new ideas
Dislikes: Musicals and wasted time
Book: Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
Film: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Album: At the moment its Tape Deck Heart by Frank Turner
Career ambition: To ensure the Aviva Platform continues to offer great value for customers and advisers, and remains the fastest growing platform in the market!
Life Ambition: To always remember what’s important
If I wasn’t doing this I would be….a farmer