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With a bit of luck

My Beautiful Career by Simon Chamberlain.

My Beautiful Career by Simon Chamberlain.

When talking about my career, I often refer to myself, as “the son of three fathers”. My first “father” was Merchant Investors, the company I joined as a graduate in 1989 straight from university.

I saw an ad in a newspaper for a financial consultant. In fact, there were 20 ads for the same kind of job. To my surprise, I got interviews from everyone I phoned. I was not aware that, in the late 80s, the only qualification you needed to become an adviser was still to be alive.

As luck would have it, I was introduced to my first manager on entry to Merchant Investors, Ian Shipway, last year’s president of the IFP. I say luck because, in the days of entrepreneurial management, there were few men of his character, honour and honesty and he would play a vital role in sculpting my views on the advice market.

Indeed, with all its faults, it was doubtlessly the best place for any novice entering a sales-led environment to learn his trade. The MI Group had a three-pronged philosophy: leadership from the front, judgement by results and rewards for achievement. These values have stayed with me throughout my career.

In 1990, I left the MI Group to pursue my first managerial career with my second “father” Royal Life. It had just been fined by Lautro and so was pretty hot on admin and processes and insisted on managers not selling and focusing their time on the development of advisers. This education was vital.

My third “father” was J Rothschild Assurance (now St James’ Place Capital), which taught me everything I needed to know about the power of cosmetics and positioning a business in the marketplace.

In 1993 and 1995, it was a true honour to become the top partner at SJP. After the hugely successful flotation of JRA in 1997, I was on gardening leave for about 18 months. These were probably the most important 18 months of my life as I was able to rebase my outlook which had become detached as a result of the success that I had enjoyed quickly and at a very early age.

After my gardening leave, I moved to Zurich as a development director at the time that it acquired Allied Dunbar, Eagle Star and Abbey Life and helped move many individuals into a practice environment so they could share costs and intellectual property to enhance their services. When this was completed with the launch of the Zurich Advice Network, I became the national recruitment director for Zurich within the UK.

My role was to recruit IFAs on the basis that the business was starting to be split in two – mortgage and protection work being done through ZAN and investment business being done through the whole of market. It became clear to me with the FSA’s launch of CP121 that, within a number of years, the industry would depolarise and this would become the common model, that is, mortgage and protection business being done in a more profitable environment such as the multi-tie world, and investments would move towards greater fund choice for the client.

Not the extreme charging structures of the past but using a route that takes clients straight into the fund management houses, that is, investment platforms and wraps.

In 2003, I left Zurich to put into the marketplace the first depolarised model which is known as Thinc, a model where an adviser can choose any licence or combination of licences. Most choose multi-tie for protection and whole of market for investments. Wealth managers all use platforms and charge fees.

This is a world of no liability to the individual adviser, as many leads as the adviser needs to fill his diary, a cast-iron exit and dignified retirement from our profession through our Adviser Annuity programme, all underwritten now by one of the biggest companies in the world since the sale to Axa in November last year.

Why did I set a company up like this? Because it is what I would have wanted as an adviser leaving the University of Central England 18 years ago.

Simon Chamberlain is CEO of Thinc Group.


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