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The Bankhall of fame

Misys had better take a look over its shoulder as it is facing stiff competition from support services company Bankhall in the race to be the UK&#39s biggest IFA.

Bankhall has passed the 4,000 mark for registered individuals, making it the second-biggest commercial grouping of IFAs in terms of numbers behind Misys IFA Services with 4,200 RIs.

Just a year ago, Bankhall had only 650 member firms and 1,830 RIs.

Its ranks have swelled due largely to the link-up with subsidiary Portfolio Member Services, the former IFA Portfolio, which has added 1,000 firms to the Bankhall fraternity.

But Bankhall head of operations Tony Murrell still insists that size is not important. He says the support services company set up in 1993 is after quality not quantity.

“We have very strict entry levels, particularly for our nursery network, Investment Strategies. We will not take anyone who has pension review cases,” he says.

Murrell says this strategy enables Investment Strategies to command the cheapest PI cover, a benefit which filters through to the rest of the organisation. He says: “We frequently see discounts of between a fifth and a third off PI premiums.”

Murrell says the money saved can be used to procure a variety of other services such as training. Bankhall also uses the bargaining power that comes with size to strike other deals, especially in the terms of technology. The fact it is owned by software company Lynx cannot hurt on this front.

Why else should an IFA choose Bankhall over traditional networks? Murrell says: “We offer an extensive range of services to a wide audience who are able to select the right product for their needs and retain independence.”

Bankhall claims its “extensive range of services” translates into a subsidiary company to suit every type of IFA firm. Investment Strategies targets direct salesmen, new start-ups and firms which have left other networks. Murrell says: “It is a bridge between belonging to a network and direct authorisation.”

Firms which are already directly authorised can slot into Portfolio Member Services. Pro-Act, established in conjunction with solicitor Armstrong Neal, takes IFAs with legal interests while UK Financial Services Consortium is suitable for insurance brokers which used to be regulated by the Insurance Brokers&#39 registration Council which but are now in the PIA.

Bankhall is set to grow further as PMS still wants to secure the 400 IFA Portfolio member firms which have yet to sign on the dotted line.

Bankhall maintains it is different from the networks because members own their own clients. But controversy has always surrounded this assertion. It spilled over into a spat with network DBS in Money Marketing earlier this year.

DBS became incensed when it saw the presentation Lynx made to analysts prior to the acquisition of Bankhall because, DBS claimed, one phrase implied DBS owns its members. The Huddersfield-based network said this is not true.

Now, Bankhall is positioning itself to pick up the firms affected by the change in rules that N2 will bring. Lawyers and solicitors, for example, will no longer be regulated by their own bodies – they will come under the FSA instead.

Murrell will not reveal how many firms he is after in total but surely Misys cannot be sure it will hang on to the top slot in terms of size. Misys seems to think there is room enough for everyone, as does network DBS.

Misys head of marketing Andrew Bedford says: “It is growing but then we are all growing. Bankhall is a nice option for firms who want to be PIA direct. The increase in numbers is just the realignment of people from IFA Portfolio. Our growth is organic.”

DBS chief executive Tony Kempster says: “It has been successful in persuading IFA Portfolio people to come across. I do not know its charges. Anyway, it has done well.”

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