IFA: FCA doesn’t like ‘restricted’ term either

Sovereign Independent Financial Advisers has seen significant growth since 2009 as it has doubled its turnover in this period.

Although Mark Hibbitt, director of the Bristol-based firm, admits that it will be tough for the firm to see that kind of growth within the next five years, he believes that turnover can jump by two thirds by boosting the number of clients serviced by each of Sovereign’s three IFAs.

However, Mr Hibbitt told FTAdviser he doesn’t want to grow the business in terms of financial advisers, adding that the firm can cater for more clients without any additional recruits.

Article continues after advert

The three advisers within the firm currently service 150 ‘premier clients’ with more investable assets and who warrant at least an annual review. However Mr Hibbitt is planning to grow this to between 100 and 120 each. The firm is rebranding in October but Mr Hibbitt is confident this will help pull in more clients.

“So it’s case of how do we go out and get those. We are just going through a rebrand which will get launched in October and from the rebrand, we’ve got a marketing strategy so we are looking at implementing that from October.

“Our marketing strategy will be completely focused about efforts to attract a certain type of client over the next how many years and try to fill that space in terms of the number of spaces we have got for annual review and premier clients.”

As well as three advisers, there are two mortgage brokers, one of which was recently employed.

Mr Hibbitt highlighted that although the mortgage market has picked up, the reason for having a mortgage adviser is primarily to have someone to focus solely on mortgages so that the the IFAs can focus on investments and pensions. Plus, it is a lot more efficient rather than having advisers dipping in and out of mortgages, he added.

Testing advisers

The three advisers were also well within the RDR-timeline in terms of getting qualified, however Mr Hibbitt is doubtful that it will stop there, predicting that within the next six years the regulator will force advisers to be level 6 qualified.

“I think it’s in line with other professional industries if we want to be professional.”

However, Mr Hibbitt adds that the bigger question is actually how advisers are tested.

“I think that from an exams point of view there are a lot of conversations around whether it was fair to make people take exams.

“You know given their levels of experience but our view was if you are that experienced, the exams wouldn’t be too much of an issue. I don’t even think it was that difficult as it is still not at degree level. I’m really not sure what the big deal with that is.

“The only issue potentially is the way that people were tested and whether that’s right. In terms of the exam structures and whether that is actually worthwhile, for example I took a long term care exam which was probably one of the easiest ones that I have taken, but a year down the line how much of that do I remember from the format of sitting an exam, I am not sure. So actually on the job experience does cement that knowledge a lot better.”