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Fees waived and frozen: How networks are responding to Covid-19

Fees waived and frozen: How networks are responding to Covid-19

Advice networks across the country are waiving, freezing and deferring fees for member firms as the industry fights the unprecedented challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last week an FTAdviser survey of 296 advisers revealed about 50 per cent had seen their workload fall as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, with 24 per cent reporting it was much lower than usual. 

Here is how some of the biggest advice networks are moving to ease the financial and psychological burden of the pandemic and the UK's lockdown:

Tenet

As of April, Tenet is giving its member firms an eight-week payment holiday from FCA and professional indemnity insurance fees in a bid to help "ease cashflow challenges" for advisers.

Warning of "particular disruption in the mortgage market" the network is also paying the licence costs of Intelligent Office for any mortgage adviser who is furloughed during the lockdown period.  

Mark Scanlon, chief executive of Tenet, said: "We have also launched regular video conferences with our senior leadership team and moved our entire events programme online, with nearly 1,000 advisers now registered for the interactive sessions.

"Additionally, we will shortly be launching a Tenet member support line, allowing members to speak to a professional counsellor or information specialist in confidence."

Mr Scanlon said Tenet had not furloughed any staff as a result of the pandemic and had instead increased its frontline personnel in a bid to support its network members. 

Sesame

Adviser network Sesame has suspended its tiered system of retention rates which usually applies to its members, meaning a firm will not be charged a higher percentage rate if its income drops during the lockdown. 

Sesame has also frozen its weekly fixed fees at the same level for the remainder of this year, and the network will waive these fees for any advisers that have been placed on furlough by their firm. 

Richard Howells, managing director at Sesame, said: "This package of measures represents tangible savings for Sesame members and not just deferrals until a later date.

"Sesame is impacted in a similar way to its members, in that as their income reduces then so does Sesame’s income.

"However, the sensible and prudent approach adopted by Sesame means that valuable adviser support and financial strength can be maintained, which ultimately enables members to continue to trade."

The Sesame boss said the network's Covid-19 adviser support hub, which launched online in March, receives about 1,000 visits a day. 

Mr Howells said the network had taken much of its support online, including training and a health service funded by Sesame which offers access to counsellors during the lockdown.  

Openwork 

Openwork has waived regular support fees for its member firms for three months during the pandemic, which the network hopes will provide a "material and immediate benefit" to advisers. 

Philip Howell, chief executive of Openwork, said: "We are working with all our advisers and supporting firms to ensure, throughout this challenging time, that they maintain high standards and can continue to serve clients.