Your IndustryAug 9 2017

Should IFAs rely on life firms?

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It was only a few years ago that life offices were offloading their investments in advice businesses as they were seen as too costly and risky for them to have an interest in.

Now they are building them up again, with the latest being Aviva, which is investing by hiring some more advisers, and training them up themselves.

This follows in the footsteps of Old Mutual Wealth, which has been busy acquiring firms, and Standard Life which has also been on a buying spree, creating 1825. The life offices will say that they are wanting to offer a full service to their clients, many of whom have suddenly found themselves with choices to make about what to do with their pensions.

The life offices will say until they are blue in the face that they do not offer special deals on their products as a way to bring in new business, and that for those who have platforms, as each of these companies do, they are not forcing advisers to use them (although 'choice' often means a choice three).

The question is really for the financial advisers. Do they have a future being independent, running their own businesses? Many would like to think so, but for some, the appeal of being under a large umbrella firm is just too strong.

Just as the large, historic networks are facing an identity crisis, so the option of joining a large firm, and being paid a large amount for it must become more appealing. Most of these businesses prefer their adviser firms to operate on a restricted basis. The question for the adviser, is, what compromises are they being asked to take for joining these companies, and are they prepared to live with them? Ultimately, will the end result for clients be for better or worse?

Perhaps ultimately the advisers are making a judgement that their future long-term prosperity lies with aligning themselves with a large company, even if that means giving up a little independence. After all, a client needs to know that his adviser will be around in ten or 15 years' time.