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Steve Edwards

NPI sales director Steve Edwards has made it his mission to see NPI rise again rise again as a true IFA favourite.

The former Pru sales director seems genuinely energised by the challenges bes- etting the life offices&#39 path back to prominence.

NPI&#39s image as a serious pension player has been und- ermined over recent years as it became increasingly app-arent that only the finan-cially strongest would sur-vive in the future low-margin environment. This week sees NPI kickstarting its camp-aign to win back its place in IFAs&#39 affections.

Edwards and his colleagues are hitting the road and taking NPI&#39s proposition to advisers across the country.

For pension providers, stakeholder pensions only crystallised what had been sensed for a while.

It was clear that margins would be squeezed and the fight for the market would involve titans as opposed to squabbles with smaller players.

Edwards says: “NPI could not have been a major player by itself. Ten years ago, it was an IFA favourite but, because of all the consolidation in the industry, it was seen as too weak.”

The life office was given its chance to live on in the 1 per cent stakeholder world by Australian insurance giant AMP. Edwards says: “When we were bought by AMP, IFAs were delighted we were back on the make again.”

In many ways, the acqu-isition was the perfect match, with AMP providing the financial clout to back up the well-loved brand offered by NPI.

After a 27-year stretch in financial services, it is almost surprising to hear Edwards so enlivened when he talks about the outlook for the future.

Where many have been tempted to bury their heads and grumble about the shake-up of the old order by stakeholder, Edwards possesses and almost North Amer-ican can-do attitude, taking strength from the undoubted turmoil.

He says: “I think IFAs have a tremendous opportunity ahead of them and stakeholder will prove lucrative for them. They have been maligned but have coped extremely well with the amount of change.

“IFAs have been going from strength to strength and are typical of the British entrepreneurial spirit which has seen them become more and more prolific.”

Edwards is obviously looking forward to living out of a suitcase for a few weeks and speaking to the men and women on the front line of the pension revolution.

He says: “I have been a sales director at the Pru and I love building teams and taking things from their current state to something else. I am a very gregarious person and I genuinely enjoy being a salesperson and spending time with sales professionals.”

Edwards was born in 1955 in Middlesex and still lives in the same area with his wife and three children.

He says: “Basically, my father, who was a bank manager, said to me &#39You have got to be either a chartered accountant, work in a bank or for a life insurance company.&#39I chose the latter.”

But Edwards says that, although he continues to enjoy his time in finance, he does not intend to apply the same restrictions on his children. “Because I went to grammar school over the road from its offices, I went to work for a Equity & Law as a clerk. I really have never looked back,” he says.

Edwards has been in his current role at NPI for just 10 months and says he is relishing the challenge.

NPI&#39s roadshows will be held over the next few weeks at 14 venues nationwide and will be attended by around 1,000 selected IFAs.

The shows aim to convince IFAs of the viability of NPI&#39s stakeholder proposition and communicate the relevance of AMP&#39s financial backing.

They will also cover worksite marketing, regarded by some as the key to IFAs&#39 profitability from stakeholder. NPI will highlight the Australian example as comparison with the launch of stakeholder in the UK in April 2001.

One roadshow will turn the spotlight on the importance of admin to keep down costs within stakeholder.

IFAs will have the opportunity to grill the experts on the company&#39s stakeholder IT admin systems Alis and e-Alis.

When it comes to the future for IFAs, Edwards says they will clearly be divided into those who decide to sell stakeholder pensions and those who do not. He says: “IFAs have got to make a decision very quickly. You either go for volume of business or not at all. It will not make sense to dabble in the market, you will have to focus either way. There will be a very clear divide between stakeholder and non-stakeholder advisers.”

“IFAs will have to change their business models to survive but they have a fantastic opportunity for worksite marketing and cross-selling other products as well as helping clients invest lump sums at retirement.”

When asked when he will know that NPI are back on top again, Edwards is typic-ally optimistic.

He says: “We have already managed to get on a national IFA panel and have recruited some big IFAs to work as national account directors and broker consultants.”

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