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Stuart McGreevy

A leap of faith from theology to broking marked the first rung on the IFA ladder for Inter-Alliance chief executive Stuart McGreevy.

McGreevy, having sated his “strong interest” in biblical studies with a BA Hons from Manchester University, broke with the ecclesiastical ranks to join a different order. His new calling took him to 1980s broking giant SPS Management and from there he nurtured his baby – Inter-Alliance.

The 36-year-old father of three says back in 1993 he saw an opportunity to establish a dominant national branded IFA and ever since he has been striving towards building on the initial operation of just four advisers. The company now has nearly 700 registered individuals and 57 offices across the UK and it floated on the London Stock Exchange in May 1998. Itnow has a market capitalisation of 66m.

McGreevy&#39s vision for his company culminated last week in the launch of the Fund Store, an online fund information service offering a choice of unit trusts, investment trusts and Oeics.

“Our experience and research has made it clear that online consumers want access to the widest choice of funds, combined with the reassurance of access to a qualified IFA, if needed.”

McGreevy is touting the Fund Store approach to distribution as unique to the UK, and he says it offers the widest choice of funds of any operation over here.

“We are putting the consumer very much in the driver&#39s seat. We supply them with information which allows them to make an informed decision on selecting the most suitable funds for their ends. The consumer can then decide whether to transact online or contact a qualified IFA.”

Fund Store&#39s launch last week grandly boasted over 300 product providers online, although McGreevy takes some pinning down before he admits customers will be able to transact online with only 10 fund managers. He is quick to add that customers will be able to buy start to finish from around 175 to 200 funds online out of a possible 2,200.

He adds that customers can download application forms for product providers that do not allow online transactions. Funds bought online carry no initial commission or administration fee.

Inter-Alliance has already had a dry run with Isa Store which launched in March.

McGreevy&#39s thirst for growth certainly has not been quenched by the launch of Fund Store. He wants to see Inter-Alliance increase Fund Store&#39s range within three months to include offshore funds, taking the total available on its site to over 5,000.

Other projects on the horizon include online mortgages and pension products. Again, McGreevy is impatient to get things going. “I would be bitterly disappointed if we did not have online mortgage capabilities within four to five weeks.”

He admits his staff sometimes balk at the deadlines for projects. “I think my colleagues believe I have no sense of time. They go pale when I tell them of the projects I want to get up and running, particularly when they hear the timescale in which I want to do it.”

The eldest of six children, McGreevy describes himself as a driver and entrepreneur. He tries to view things positively, saying life is too short to see the glass as half empty all the time.

He believes his principled approach to life permeates the business ethics of Inter-Alliance and he hopes to generate an ethos of “not come as you are but stay as you are” among his staff. He wants a company structured so that everyone feels positive about their role.

To this end, Inter-Alliance actively recruits graduates and operates a two-year training scheme. McGreevy is proud of the graduate scheme and boasts that it is “creating a new breed of IFA”. Inter-Alliance currently has around 150 graduates working for it, 60 per cent of whom have the full FPC and 22 per cent have got to the first stage of the AFPC. The rest are still in various stages of training.

Graduates work for two years as back-office support staff until they are fully qualified and ready for confirmation as IFAs.

McGreevy believes Inter-Alliance&#39s approach to distribution, too, is innovative. He is so convinced of the company&#39s direction and strategy that he describes its methods as “changing the DNA of financial services”.

He says there has been too much emphasis on clicks and not enough on bricks in the advice market. “We have adopted a triangle approachto distribution to optimise market opportunities.”

This triangle consists of the IFA at the pinnacle, with a limited advice call centre beneath it, which in turn has an online information layer beneath it.

McGreevy believes face-to-face advice will never be replaced but he is a strong believer that the online world will grow the overall market significantly and he wants Inter-Alliance in the online forefront, backed up by advice.

“Customers will always need face-to-face advice, regardless of the information available to them online. We want to see remuneration and advice unbundled and we are actively focusing on fee-based advice through retainers and performance related fees in a bid to achieve this goal.”

The future is bright according to McGreevy and it is most definitely fee-based.

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