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The real cost of distribution

This is a risk when buying a company in any market, particularly one like financial services where many factors, economic and regulatory, are not in the hands of the firms involved.

Investment in distribution does appear to be a particularly hazardous example.

The contradiction for many providers assessing whether to invest is that the influence of many distribution organisations over product sales far outstrips the value of those organisations. It is further complicated by the fact that these organisations either comprise or rely on disparate businesses often of different size, make-up, turnover and profitability.Nothing the FSA and Treasury have done with depolarisation has changed that.

Of course, there are many IFA organisations doing well. Some medium-sized IFA network businesses have posted decent profits but there appear to be very few insurers making a decent return on their investments. One life office distribution director always remarked, although always off the record, that he never expected to make any money from his investments – it was always a distribution play and often a defensive one. Perhaps Skandia is learning this lesson the hard way.

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