The new year brings a number of new challenges but Panacea Adviser chief executive Derek Bradley is determined to help advisers thrive in the new regulatory environment.
Bradley set up the business after realising there was a gap in the relationship between advisers and providers and saw an opportunity to improve service levels, particularly for small adviser firms, by offering free online access to the latest tools, research and resources from product providers and support services.
Bradley is no stranger to the finance industry. He spent 18 years running his own small IFA business and before that worked as a broker consultant at Scottish Equitable. But he says his first employer was a significant inspiration behind Panacea Adviser. Bradley worked as a trainee for two years at Lloyds of London, described as a “coffee house” where financiers used to meet regularly to discuss business matters and still do to this day.
“In those days, coffee shops were places people would come in to meet like-minded people and gain access to ideas. What we’re doing is nothing new in this industry necessarily, we are just recreating the coffee shop ethos and placing it on the internet.
“It is a knowledge resource, a one-stop aggregation shop which enables people to come in when they want, gain access to information, ideas and opportunities.”
It seems advisers and providers have welcomed this approach. Panacea Adviser began with the support of around eight firms and 100 community members. It now has the support of 42 firms and more than 17,000 community members, 13,000 of these members joining last year alone.
Bradley credits this success to his background and what he is trying to do with the organisation. “I had been deemed to feel their pain. I was like one of them. When setting this up, I was not pushing distribution and I was not charging them anything to get involved with this and the growth has been extraordinary.”
The organisation rebranded in October from PanaceaIFA in order to reflect the post-RDR industry.
“Despite there being a great deal of passion about being an IFA, we serve a broad church and we are not there to only service IFAs or restricted advisers, so adviser is a nice, inoffensive term.
From what we see from some research we are doing, there will be a lot more firms who will be restricted than people think there will be. Ultimately it will be increasingly difficult for people to actually see the IFA badge as being one to stick to.”
The Association of Independent Financial Advisers recently made a similar decision and changed its name to the Association of Professional Financial Advisers. Bradley says: “I think it was absolutely the right thing to do. Whether you are restricted or independent, we will all have the same problem and there is a greater strength in numbers.
“I think if you look back over the last four or five years, Apfa has not served its membership as well as it could have done. That’s a great sadness. I think there is a very different crew on board now who are trying their best but unfortunately it will be a big struggle.”
Panacea is currently run by a team of three staff but is looking at employing one or two extra staff members next year.
Panacea Adviser also teamed up with The Money Marketing CPD Centre, providing free support for readers.
“We’ve got a huge amount more that we can do with Panacea Adviser. I’m 62 next year and I do not know how much longer I will necessarily be at the front of it.”
The lack of grandfathering is a subject Bradley has a particular problem with.
“It did not get overly well supported by the trade bodies and it certainly didn’t get overly supported by those who were offering qualifications for reasons we can understand. I can’t think of any other industry where grandfathering has not been accepted as a norm.”
The stigmatising of commission is another subject that is close to his heart.
“Financial services product providers are effectively manufacturers of products which they have to shift.
“I can’t think of any other business whereby shifting a product doesn’t involve some sort of remuneration by the distributor. Ultimately it should be a choice for the consumer to make.”
Bradley is no fan of the FSA but does not hold out much hope for its replacement, the Financial Conduct Authority.
He says the shift is symptomatic of financial regulation characterised by pointless change which incurs high costs, especially on smaller firms.
“Year after year, the effect of regulation is just stifling and so much of it is without any logic at all.”
Bradley says Panacea offers him the ideal position of being able to help financial advisers but without the headache of being regulated.
“It is just the enjoyment of being able to do something that is creative without having regulation in the way.”
Born: Southend on Sea
Lives: Thames Valley
Education: Westcliff High School, Southend College of Technology
Career: 2007-present: chief executive, Panacea Adviser; 1988-2006: IFA, Bradley Company; 1981-88: broker consultant, Scottish Equitable; 1972-80: cabin crew, British airways; 1970-72: trainee, Bowring Lloyd’s marine reinsurance market;
Likes: Tennis, skiing, sailing, golf, swimming
Dislikes: Arrogance, corporate inertia and excess, poorly thought-out and expensive regulation for the sake of it
Books: Samuel Pepys’ Diaries or To the Last Man by Lyn Macdonald
Film: Apocalypse Now
Album: Any live albums by Tom Petty or Peter Gabriel
Career ambition: To see Panacea Adviser to become the equivalent of Lloyds coffee house and continue to improve it
Life ambition: To see my family happy and secure
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…Very bored and six stone lighter