Back to the future

8 Oct2015

panacea IFA article: back to the future

Alex Morris, Partner at Financial Relationships

Eleven years ago I returned to the UK from my first taste of post graduate working life.

Not one to do things by half I started work at the ANZ Bank in Melbourne before securing work in Tokyo teaching Business English to Japanese executives also known as salary men. I spent two years in Tokyo in total.

Over three years abroad taught me a lot about myself as well as other cultures, other people and the value of money to different people.

When I returned to London it was to fulfil my lifelong ambition of becoming an IFA. It certainly wasn’t for the weather and transport systems!

I wanted to complete my training to what I hoped would be a first class professional career. Nothing else interested me much to the bemusement of my father who was a retired footballer turned Chartered Accountant.

I was very lucky in many ways to start my training at Sun Life Of Canada. It gave me the benefit of an excellent training programme as experience of direct sales which reaffirmed why I wanted to be an IFA, to protect families and companies, help individuals and companies build up wealth as well as mitigate taxation.

We had a limited kit bag of expensive, third and fourth quartile products. This wasn’t as much of an issue then as it is today. The internet hadn’t really impacted on people’s understanding of choice in financial services and the general knowledge of today.

Choice today is everything and so is true independence.

In terms of the training I received it was as good as it got. The management training centres used were the best, the trainers were very good and no expense seemed to be spared.

The sales process used was very comprehensive but we have now adapted a much more advanced version for our advice process.

Basically, I was the last generation of adviser to go to the mainstream sales schools offered by the big insurers for their direct sales forces.

In my year in Australia in 1997 the number one graduate career was Financial Adviser. I have been back to Oz many times since and I never fail to be amazed at how much respect I get when I say I am an IFA.

It is akin to being an Accountant or Solicitor. Why? They may now be behind us at cricket but they are always 15 years ahead of us in Financial Services.

From endowment scandals, to proper regulation, RDR, stakeholder pensions and freestyle mortgages. If you didn’t realise these were not UK inventions or novelties you do now. These all happened in Oz long before they occurred here.I want Financial Relationships and the IFA industry as a whole to be viewed here as professionals like our counterparts in Oz. Setting the standards like the Oz cricket teams of old. World class acts that consistantly perform to the highest levels.

The primary way Financial Relationships are looking to achieve this is by bringing through degree educated youngsters mainly in their twenties.

All have business degrees in common, two have worked abroad and are bilingual. Another is IMC qualified, an ex-Investment Banker and almost chartered at the age of 25.

The best thing about these trainees is that they have the attitude and application to succeed. Like me they took a step back to take many forward, by under studying Senior Partners in the firm, to learn the job inside out.

They have all taken big pay cuts to become trainee para-planners to get a shot at becoming trainee IFAs. These are the people who will replace my older partners and me in the years to come.

In a couple of years I have seen the same development in these people that I saw in myself. This progression and daily development meant that I quickly knew more than most IFAs 20 years older than me.

Experience counts for nothing if you continue to repeat year one time and again. I feel this class of 2011 will be the ones who start to fill the void that will be left by the RDR exit.

From a partner’s point of view the older IFAs in our business and the ones who join will have an abundance of retirement choices.

The IFA and most importantly their clients will have a crop of highly talented, exceptionally well qualified, top end professionals who will take on and look after them for years to come.

We need to look to the youth of today to join this profession rather than other professions to continue driving our industry standards upwards.

They are pivotal to underpinning the successful exits of the older IFAs, maintaining our valuable IFA service to our clients and keeping the faith of the general public in the IFA brand in these transitional times.