Firing line  

'Small providers have been quicker to adapt to Covid-19'

Evolving industry

Having worked as an independent financial adviser since 1990 – working solely in accountancy practices – Mr Pickford has seen close up how the financial advice sector has evolved.

He has been with the company for more than 20 years advising high-net-worth individuals and business owners on building and managing their wealth, investments, pensions and retirement counselling. 

In particular, he works with owners of companies who are preparing their businesses for sale and planning their life post-sale.

“The landscape for giving advice is changing and there will be some sections, businesses and individuals within the advice sector who will have found this period hard from an operational, business development and client relationship perspective,” says Mr Pickford.

“Many of these changes are here to stay, thus they will be analysing whether they will be best placed to continue in their current form and will be considering the options that may be open to them.”

Bright future

Despite the challenges Mr Pickford is optimistic about the future of financial advice, as people will always need advice and, in the short term, need it more than ever in what will be challenging times to come.

What businesses should do now, he says, is to seek out the opportunities that can help the way the business develops and the way advice is delivered and administered.

“Not only will there be changes but also because of the situation, the speed of change has increased,” Mr Pickford says.

“This is a good thing as adoption and integration can take time. However, the [Covid-19] situation has forced change and therefore the speed at which the benefits are realised comes much earlier.”

He adds: “It will create new opportunities; businesses will require different and new skill sets in their teams and some roles will go on to be replaced by others. However, the place of the adviser will remain but the management, storage and use of data will change.”

This is because the changes will highlight the fact that there will be real value in advice rather than implementation, which will become more automated. 

Mr Pickford hails this as a “real positive”, adding that it is the differentiator between those businesses that can give advice compared to those who still act mainly as facilitators, and is from where they derive their remuneration.

The company, which came fifth in last year’s Top 100 Financial Advisers ranking, has a  five-year plan to increase its turnover to £30m, and to grow its funds under management to £3bn.

Mr Pickford says the future is bright for those businesses who put providing advice to clients at the centre and transform their operations to take advantage of and optimise the technology that is available now and in the future.