Asked to describe his journey through financial services, Phil Young’s response is more than a little self-deprecating. “I am effectively a failed lawyer,” says the managing director of Threesixty Services.
After completing a law degree from Leeds University, an overcrowded law graduate market forced him to look for other opportunities.
Instead of law, he joined Macclesfield-based consultancy firm Compliance Consultants in 1996.
After two years as a compliance manager in Macclesfield, Young moved to Bankhall as commercial manager – a business that was growing rapidly when he joined in 1998.
“Bankhall was a great experience. It was riding the crest of a wave and going through incredible growth but it started to grow a little bit out of control.
“It grew to such an extent that it was a battle just to keep on top of it and keep up-to-date with where it was going.”
Four years with Bankhall led Young to set up Threesixty alongside six other partners in 2003. Standard Life acquired a 25 per cent stake in the business in May 2007 and acquired the firm outright in March 2010.
Although categorised as a support services firm, Young is keen to broaden the definition of the business.
“I want to move away from the term support services and be recognised as a professional services firm.
“The term network has become tainted because of tie-ups with product providers and I think support service businesses have begun to attract the same sort of stigma.”
Big distribution firms are currently struggling with the costs associated with meeting the RDR requirements, particularly the new charging structures.
However, Young would like to see further scrutiny applied to the way such companies are funded.
“I think there is a can of worms for the FSA to open and I am all in favour of a radical overhaul. Although they are banned under the RDR, these deals are now being morphed into restricted advice propositions which are just multi-tied deals in disguise with manufacturers still paying for distribution.
“For the regulator to go in hard on these payments would probably finish everybody off in the market apart from ourselves.”
In light of the recent demise of Honister, Young says the regulator may hold back through fear of another high profile failure.
“I do have my doubts as to whether the FSA would do this because it would inevitably result in other firms going under in the same way as Honister.”
In the aftermath of Honister, Young says advisers who had already made the decision to leave the group should be given reauthorisation priority by the FSA.
“The people who had already applied for reauthorisation and made a strategic decision to leave the firm before the current panic should be the number one priority.”
In recent months, Young has been critical of adviser firms white-labelling platforms and taking an extra margin for themselves. He says this is a “major issue” and feels he is a lone opposition voice.
“What I find completely unacceptable in advisory firms is using bulk purchasing power to negotiate deals with platforms and then increasing the price to the customer or keeping it the same. I am convinced this is a major issue but there is an inherent interest in people keeping quiet about it until the end of the year.
“I have been more vocal about it but I feel like a lone voice sometimes. I think it is important that advisers refuse to turn a blind eye to it.”
As a keen advocate of social media, Young says Twitter is currently replacing the old forms of support offered to advisers by product providers and distribution firms who find their budgets under strain.
“Historically, the industry has been serviced by hundreds of broker consultants and has seen advisers pushed into the industry by product providers. That has shrunk and there is very little face-to-face support.
“There is going to be a long tail of IFAs out there that want help and support. Social media is a way in which people are forming communities in the absence of a product manufacturer inviting them to events and forming communities for them.”
He adds that despite Standard Life’s 2010 acquisition of the firm, social media helps it maintain an independent image.
He says: “From my perspective, it is a tool to show that we have not become overly corporate. Have a look at some of the crap I come out with and it is pretty obvious we have not done that and shows I am accessible to clients, non-clients and competitors.”
The adoption of platforms is something Young says has been greatly advantageous for the industry but he is sceptical of the platform industry’s “self-congratulatory” attitude.
“To an extent, there is as much rubbish coming out of the platform industry as from product providers. It probably should not be as self-congratulatory as it is at times. It gets a bit sanctimonious saying this is the end state of things and the use of platforms is the nirvana that everyone has arrived at.
“History has taught us that something is going to come along and replace it, whether that is a disruptive piece of technology from outside the industry or someone coming up with the next big thing.”
Born: Bury, Greater Manchester
Lives: Didsbury, south Manchester
Education: Derby High School, Bury, Holy Cross College, Bury (A levels), Leeds University (Law Degree), College of Law, York (Diploma in Legal Practice)
Career: 2011-present: managing director, threesixty, 2003-2011: partner, threesixty 1998-2002: commercial manager, Bankhall
1996-1998: compliance manager, Compliance Consultants
Likes: Books, music, art, people with a sense of humour
Dislikes: Jargon, industry nonsense
Drives: Audi A4
Book: 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Film: The Big Lebowski
Album: Grace by Jeff Buckley
Career ambition: To take the next leap forward in the provision of business services to advisers
Life ambitions: To watch my daughter grow up and to read all the books I own. If I wasn’t doing this, I would… like to be a painter, but most likely a solicitor.