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SBG’s chairman admits the group can still do a lot better

SBG’s chairman admits the group can still do a lot better

John Cowan admitted there was still room for improvement at Seasame Bankhall Group following a make-or-break review that saw it lose 60 per cent of its network advisers.

A year after its parent company Friends Life completed a strategic review, the executive chairman of Sesame Bankhall Group said it was focused on making it a “partner” to financial advisers.

Mr Cowan said: “We want to get the very best products and services – we want to make it easier for advisers to do business.”

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Sesame’s mortgage business – the network’s core since it closed to investment advisers in July 2015 – remained committed to delivering exclusives.

“We’re working with lenders to make the advisers’ experience of processing mortgage applications easier; to service their clients’ related needs of protection and general insurance,” he explained.

SBG’s management plan is to grow the remaining mortgage network business.

A total of 43 per cent of Sesame Bankhall Group’s advisers went to Instrinsic when it shut its investment advice network, following two fines from the regulator and an enforced review of past pension advice.

However, Mr Cowan revealed that the group has undergone some internal soul-searching before it looks to external expansion.

“We’ve been asking if we are managing our existing business really well, and to the best of our ability”, he said, adding “the answer to that is we can do a lot better”.

He said past problems at SBG had left the management team “distracted”.

“There was an uncertainty around the ownership. The completion of the strategic review has changed the whole mood of the place – you can see the release of energy.”

The strategic review was launched by owner Friends Life in 2013.

Mr Cowan said Sesame Bankhall now has the support of Aviva, which bought Friends Life in 2015.

He said: “We are having a lot of conversations with Aviva about how a group that size can help us with the delivery of more services.”

“I want to leverage the power of being owned by that group. Andy Briggs [chief executive of Aviva UK Life] is the most enthusiastic Bankhall supporter.”

Mr Cowan added that Sesame is interested in helping advisers who want to provide some form of robo-advice solution to capture new client bases.

However, he also said: “Some advisers are preserving their traditional client base, but others feel they have a responsibility to find ways of helping clients.

“We will want to help them, but we absolutely need clarity on the regulation.”