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Tough lessons

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I was sitting with the owner of one of our most successful firms at an industry dinner recently talking about the market and what it meant for him.

He said that when we finally return to more normal levels of business, he will look back at the last couple of years and reflect on how he has moved from being a salesman to a businessman.

His view is that being successful in business during these tough times will be what helps us to prosper in the good times. This means things like taking a hard look at revenue, diversification, where you want to specialise and being ruthless on cost management.

We are certainly not out of the woods just yet but at the same time we have a booming stockmarket. Alongside this, we have the regulatory dynamics of the FSA fighting for survival but continuing to push ahead with the mortgage market review and retail distribution review.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders is talking about £150bn of lending this year, which is flat on last year, but we had a slow start to 2010 with activity hampered by the bad weather in January.

The National Association of Estate Agents announced positive transaction activity earlier in the year and this was followed up by a welcome boost in the Budget with a rise in stamp duty threshold for first-time buyers.

We need to stay focused on the profitability and direction of business.

For many advisers, general insurance remains one of the biggest opportunities to embed value in their business over the longer term by building up a stream of renewal income.

I have also seen a noticeable shift to commission payment on non-indemnity terms on protection business – again helping to build up long-term value.

This approach will not suit everyone but should be a consideration as part of medium-term business planning.

I also foresee fundamental basics of good record-keeping will become an increasing theme of FSA reviews.

It makes good business sense to look at point-of-sale and client management technology to offer a more holistic service to customers and keep costs down.

John Cupis is managing director of PMS

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