Firing line  

SPW boss: 'I have a record of growing businesses'

SPW boss: 'I have a record of growing businesses'

Mark Duckworth, chief executive of Schroders Personal Wealth, has had some adapting to do after moving from his role as head of Openwork last year.

The largest change to get used to is the business model.

SPW currently has 350 financial advisers, who work for two large shareholders, but they are all employed.

He says: "When you work in an environment which is a network, with self-employed advisers, it's much harder to find a sense of alignment. This is a completely different model, having everyone think in the same way because they're all employed; that's impossible in a network model."

It is also better for the customer, he says. "If the adviser is self-employed, and [the client] walks into your home and doesn't buy anything, the adviser doesn't get anything. I'm not sure that's a benevolent model. If the adviser earns anyway, that's a more benevolent model."

SPW is a joint venture between Lloyds Banking Group and Schroders, with the bank owning 50.1 per cent and Schroders 49.9 per cent.

The proposition sounds relatively simple: anyone walking into a Lloyds branch, or going on their website, looking for financial advice will be steered toward an adviser at SPW, with the intention that wherever a client goes in the country, they will get the same type of advice.

From an advice perspective, it sounds compelling; an advice business that has automatic lead generation every time someone with more complex needs walks into a branch of Lloyds.

Mr Duckworth says SPW is not exclusive in terms of who it will help out: "Everybody that needs advice, we want to help. We're not saying you need £1m, but we can only help certain clients. If someone said, 'I've got £1 to save', the cost of advice wouldn't be worth it.

"We want to give more advice to more people, we're not just choosing the ultra-high-net-worth. The clients will have savings and pensions, they've got long-term goals and short-term goals and things they want to protect."

As part of the plan to reach more people, the business announced in April that it would offer protection products free of commission. The panel is currently limited to two providers: Scottish Widows, which is part of Lloyds, and Legal & General.

"We think that brings down the premium by 30 per cent, therefore they can invest more or it means the client can have 30 per cent more cover. Given there's a huge, under-served population, we think that's the right thing to do."

The business is also offering Schroders funds for those that want to invest. Schroders funds make up about 10 per cent of all funds currently on offer through the SPW service, which runs through the Benchmark Capital platform.

Mr Duckworth says: "Having Schroders as a shareholder gives you huge economy with funds. Asa packaged multi-manager, you bring that at the best price; we're adding to the range all of the time."