Charles Stanley  

Firing Line: Steve Hill

Firing Line: Steve Hill

Steve Hill, head of intermediary sales at Charles Stanley, has been in the industry a long time, forming relationships with advisers to help them get the best for their clients.

As the industry has changed, he has seen the shape of distribution evolve and the nature of his job has altered dramatically.

He said: "The one thing I have noticed is that there are fewer and fewer people doing the sort of job we do. The old BDM [business development manager] role and sales account manager are around less and less.

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"Of the IFAs, we see a very small handful because there are more telephone-based teams out there and, for a number, the main providers have segmented and segmented. Now, it's not unusual for a BDM to have 10 accounts to look after; when I first started I had about 90, and then that halved and then it went to 15."

A big reason for this change was the introduction of platforms, which meant there was less reason for the BDMs to meet the advisers face to face.

He said: "If you go back to 1990 when I started, we would be dealing with product providers [in person], and platforms came along, and it meant we could put client assets on a single platform – it might be different companies, but it would all sit in one place."

The knock-on effect was that the large providers would take branches out. Mr Hill said: "As soon as we started taking branches out, we didn't [need] as many people for that. What that gives me a concern about is that a lot of people in the financial adviser market would have originated either through life companies, direct sales, industrial branch companies – a lot of people in our industry came through that route and we have to ask  the question: where is the next generation coming from?"

Mr Hill started out at Clerical Medical, moving over to Scottish Widows before becoming head of intermediary sales at Charles Stanley. His main reason for speaking to financial advisers is over their use of the Charles Stanley discretionary fund management service, which offers a range of model portfolios for advisers to choose from.

He said: "We rarely go into a meeting blind. No one wants to sit down with us and hear 15 minutes about us as a business and all the different things we do."

Instead, it is straight down to business, and Mr Hill talks about the range of model portfolios Charles Stanley offers. It also has a direct platform, an investment management division for personalised portfolios and a financial planning business.

He said: "There has been a move towards outsourcing. There were businesses before using DFMs [discretionary fund managers], but with all the requirements of RDR and research and being able to evidence the outcome, there's been more outsourcing in the last five years. The adviser is doing the suitability of the client to ensure our solution is the right solution for the underlying client.