CompaniesApr 13 2012

Sanlam boss says independent tag will die within a decade

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ByDonia O’Loughlin

In a decade’s time, the word ‘independent’ will no longer exist and advisers will either be Chartered, Certified or just a financial adviser, Nigel Speirs, head of distribution at Sanlam UK, told FTAdviser.

In an interview with FTAdviser, to be published later today, Mr Speirs said IFAs will feel unable to designate themselves as IFAs as the independence arena “will be so blurred” and restricted advisers will have far more freedom.

He said: “I think advisers will realise the freedom that restricted gives you enables you to tell a customer what you are going to do and to do it.”

Mr Speirs emphasised a lot of advisers think that the term ‘restricted’ means they will have to “go back to the bad old days when they were tied”.

He said now restricted advisers will have the freedom to choose who their partners are and if they do not meet requirements, they can leave them and pick another partner, therefore they “can do the best thing for the client”.

He said: “Once advisers realise they haven’t got to keep justifying that to the client time and time again and can just point to their research and say who they have chosen to partner with, then the whole independence thing will disappear.”

Mr Speirs is not the only industry figure to question the future of the IFA moniker. Dennis Hall, well-known commentator and managing director of Yellowtail Financial Planning, has previously stated that people are increasingly looking for ‘unbiased’, rather than ‘independent’ advice.

In a video interview with FTAdviser, Mr Hall said that for many advisers the new requirements for independence would be “a step too far”, but went on to say that despite the regulator’s definition, clients would simply be looking for the same level of quality service.

He said: “The IFA acronym has been overused. IFAs are now seen by a lot of people as financial advisers, so it has lost a lot of its value”.

Earlier this year Sanlam UK launched a ‘hybrid’ advice model, meaning that its clients will initially be offered products from the Sanlam group companies before the rest of the market is searched.

Since Sanlam has moved to this model, Mr Speirs claimed the firm has calculated that each of its advisers can look after 100 more clients each because of the simplification of the processes.

He said: “If the client uses our Sanlam offering, we can deliver it to them cheaper and we would have reduced the paperwork considerably, so we get more time in front of clients and less time at our desks writing copious notes.”