Towry’s John Porteous on dealing with insistent clients

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Towry has introduced an “escalation” process to senior management for certain clients following the Government’s pension reforms.

Towry head of client proposition John Porteous says the firm’s biggest concern is clients looking to access their cash on an execution-only basis, who he fears will make an “uninformed decision”.

He says: “We strongly encourage customers to take advice and there is an escalation process through the organisation. Ultimately it could go all the way to myself or the head of compliance, because we would encourage them to make an informed decision wherever possible.”

Porteous says the escalation process is also used in certain circumstances for insistent clients – those who wish to act against the recommendation of their adviser – and those transferring out of defined benefit schemes.

He says: “Our general view of insistent clients is that we do not support it, but we do not have a blanket ban as we look at cases on their individual merits.

“There is a fundamental difference between an existing client and a brand new client. If a new client knocked on our door asking to be transferred out of a DB scheme our view is we are probably not the type of organisation that would want to take on that client.”

He adds: “We haven’t seen people knocking on our door from day one saying please unlock all my pension assets. People have been interested in talking about their options, but they are usually happy to stay on course with their long-term strategy.”

Porteous says Towry is currently in the process of creating a single advice model following its acquisition of Ashcourt Rowan, announced in February.

Towry operates a restricted advice model, as it does not advise on investment trusts or structured products, while Ashcourt Rowan is independent.

Porteous says: “We are still considering the position on the independence and restricted labels and are keeping all our options open. We want to build the advice and investment model first, and our decision on restricted or independent comes after that.

“When we brought the businesses together we found we were very aligned in our views of our client-centric, financial planning led service with a set of flexible investment options behind it.

“But we will have to look at service agreements, charging models and how we bring new services in.

“We will also need to think very carefully about how we manage legacy services.”

Porteous adds some staff are currently going through a consultation process, but refuses to say how many.

He says: “Regrettably there will be some redundancies through inevitable overlap, but we are also bringing in some great talent from Ashcourt and making senior appointments.”

Towry announced in May that Steve Midgley, managing director of Ashcourt’s financial planning arm, will become its head of sales strategy and operations.

Towry is also due to pilot a telephone and online advice service in July. Money Marketing first revealed Towry’s plans for the service in March.

Porteous says: “The service will offer both simplified advice and execution-only services.

“We want to make sure our telephone and digital strategy sits alongside our face-to-face proposition. It is giving clients choice in the way they want to be served.

“We see that as something that appeals to a certain segment of client. But it is not always limited to that segment; we have seen one or two people who are further up the wealth scale but also want to have a part of their money managed in an execution only fashion.”

Charging details for the service are not yet available.

Porteous adds: “We think it has great potential and look forward to receiving feedback from the pilot. We will resource it to the level of demand but it is challenging to put exact numbers on that at this stage.”

Timeline

March 2013: Towry acquires Norscot Financial Services and George Square Fund Managers

April 2014: Former Prudential UK chief executive Rob Devey appointed chief executive of Towry

April 2014: Towry acquires the advice arm of Baker Tilly for an undisclosed sum

March 2014: Ron Sandler appointed as chairman of Towry, replacing Gerald Corbett

February 2015: Towry announces £97m acquisition of Ashcourt Rowan