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Roger sanders

Helm Godfrey deputy chairman and director believes that small IFAs should stick together and create a stronger offering and his recent merger proves just that. Sam Shaw met him to discuss the company’s plans for the future

According to Roger Sanders, Britain is on the brink of a new era in financial services. He believes the business models which IFAs have been using for years are now null and void, stressing that smaller firms join forces with their neighbour firms to create a stronger offering.

Sanders warns that firms burying their heads in the sand are vulnerable to bigger companies which are more capable of offering a composite business model.

During his 37 years in the industry, Sanders has served Sun Alliance as a general insurance broker turned pensions specialist; he was UK director of Dubai-based iHilal Islamic financial services and participated on the Bank of England’s working party on Islamic finance. Sanders has also been non-executive director of the PIA, co-chairman of FSA’s small-business practitioner panel and co-founded Aifa. He is now a non-executive director of the FOS, chairman of the EU Life and Investment Committee on Brussels-based BIPAR and represents the UK retail financial services market on CESR. Phew.

These combined efforts saw him rewarded with an OBE for services to small businesses and financial services in 2002.

Away from the office, Sanders is father to 17-year old Isabella and this week is cele-brating his silver wedding anniversary with wife Lynne. But Lynne will have to wait a little longer for her anniversary surprise though, as her husband will be busy moving into his new premises following the merger of Roger Sanders Associates (RSA) with Helm Godfrey Partners. The move sees Sanders practising what he preaches – that small firms must group together to form a stronger offering. He says: “Small firms can no longer be all things to all people and remain competitive.”

Sanders will now focus on employee benefits, after passing his regulated business on to Helm Godfrey in a merger effective from next Friday. He says: “It is about embracing change. Some IFAs might well be just hanging on until they retire but those wanting to grow and expand their businesses should consider joining up with other firms in the area – it is common sense.”

Sanders started his career with Sun Alliance in 1968 but quickly moved up. By 1972 he was the group’s youngest-ever City inspector, receiving personal dispensation from wearing obligatory bowler hat and furled umbrella, making him the butt of many a jibe of his older and more ‘typical’ peers.

He began writing pensions business and then through a secondment with Jardine Mathieson in Hong Kong, switched from being a general insurance broker to working mainly in pensions.

Fast-forward to 1982 and his dream of having his own business came true when he set up Roger Sanders Associates.

Former PIA director Denis Brown was Sanders’ leading light in the cause of promoting small business practices. Brown, who passed away in 1999, set up the Small Business Practitioners panel giving Sanders a seat as its pensions expert – Sanders succeeded Brown as chairman.

Sanders does not buy in to the conspiracy theory that the FSA has it in for small businesses, saying they cannot afford to be, with 93 per cent of the FSA’s regulated firms classified as small, but he is proud of the progress made in influencing the regulator’s stance towards small firms. He says: “In 1999, the FSA set up its own small business practiti-oner panel. We now have 14 members re-presenting the intermediary market.”

April 1999 saw the birth of Aifa, with Sanders’ help. He is complimentary of the work led by Paul Smee, a regrettable short spell by David Severn, and is looking forward to seeing the impact Chris Cummings will have taking the association forward.

Sanders’ association with Aifa ceased in February, coinciding with his appointment as non-executive director at FOS. He says: “I went for the job because I think the interests of consumers at one end and IFAs at the other are two sides of the same coin. The FSA is now seeing the merit of that argument.”

Recognising the need for increased specialism, Sanders is now growing the employee-benefits business and has been working with the informed choices project team on improving access to workplace-based pensions advice with the DWP.

He says: “There are several pressures that have led me to sell and merge my business. You have falling revenues because comm-ission levels have dropped. We have to move towards fees, charging irrespective of whether the advice leads to a transaction. The menu shows how we can add value to a client relationship and what our charges are. Multi-tie and whole-of-market advice means that IFAs can now operate in both models.”

Sanders says the issue for small firms is that the means of financing the capital for the firm comes out of the bricks and mortar. He says: “You need to invest to take advantage of the opportunities, with depolarisation and particularly with A-Day, which is a huge opportunity to advise clients to join the pensions net.”

“In the run up to depolarisation, I became aware that the business models we had been using for years had to be revisited urgently. Commission levels were falling in light of stakeholder pensions, which were the biggest cause of the collapse in revenues.”

Sanders, who recognises that small IFAs can no longer be all things to all people, is going for a change in tack. Rather than burying his head in the sand, he is embracing a new challenge. He says: “You never know where a path is going to lead you. It may take you into a cul-de-sac but sometimes it could lead you to a higher ground. You just never know.”

Laindon, Essex September 1949 Westminster with wife Lynne and daughter Isabella, 17.

School in Devon, A-levels in geography, economics and economic history. 1968: Sun Alliance insurance broker; 1974: secondment with Jardine Mathieson; 1975: Return to Sun Alliance; 1983: RSA launched; 1999: FSA’s small business practitioners panel, co-founded Aifa; 2000-2003: UK director of Dubai-based iHilal Islamic financial services; 2005: non-executive director at FOS; 2005: deputy chairman of Helm Godfrey Partners and also chairman of EU Life and Investment committee of BIPAR, UK retail financial services market representative on CESR.

To build a business that continues to grow long after I am no longer involved – to leave my mark. Former PIA director Denis Brown.

Music, opera and Norwich City FC. Volvo drivers.

Charles Dickens. Lawrence of Arabia.

Nixon in China by John Adams

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