Money Marketing

Phil Wickenden: Genuinely caring can give a business the edge

By Phil Wickenden

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Jul 05, 2018
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Phil WickendenHere is a question I believe a lot of advisers would like to ask providers: if you could see and experience the world through our eyes – and you really cared – what would you do?

The answer, and how they feel about what is required to make it happen, is a simple test of their commitment to excellence. Consistently showing up and delivering in the areas that really matter. Excellence cuts through the mire of bureaucracy, status quo, regulation and excuses, and asks a simple question: what would you do if you knew?

But, as I say, the pre-requisite is caring. As marketing entrepreneur Seth Godin recently noted, can you imagine seeing a sign like this hanging in a corporate office – “We have an unfair advantage: we care more”?

This is relevant against the backdrop of the rising importance of help with things such as the generation of business ideas and practice development. Mostly because they are hard. Hard to create, to resource and to deliver. And hard things tend not to get done unless someone cares an awful lot.



These things are easy to promise and difficult to do. But if providers promised and did them, the returns on that investment would be positively disproportionate, not least because most others will not stay the course.

More than any other skill or attitude, consistently demonstrating care is what keeps customers in any industry coming back. Advisers are no different.

"Excellence cuts through the mire of bureaucracy, status quo and regulation"

Mifid II and rules on inducements are shaking up the thinking of many providers in relation to what they do for advisers, including what support they deliver. And rightly so. What providers should spend their support budgets on is a big concern. But while some are looking at the burden of regulation as a convenient and plausible reason to cut back, this would be a mistake.

Support that results in the enhancement of the service provided to the client via better-informed and equipped advisers should always be permissible.

Recent research we have undertaken shows just how important business and technical supports are becoming as determinants of advisers’ provider and platform selection. But as demand has risen, provider delivery has plateaued at best. Which players will make the most of this opportunity? I will look at this topic a bit more next week.

Phil Wickenden is managing director at Cicero Research

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Money Marketing

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The leading magazine and website for IFAs and professional financial advisers. Pensions, investment, mortgages, protection, platforms and regulation news.

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Derek Bradley 7 days ago

The latest FCA May missive: PS 18/10 is the one to watch.


The potential impact looks pretty serious for network relationships in particular.


I should warn, this paper has not long landed, not everyone is even aware of it and even where they are aware, they may yet have to interpret it or indeed have a completely different interpretation, such is the world of regulation and compliance.


Very clearly, for a regulator, touching upon implementation of MiFID II’s updated inducement requirements, including the new MiFID II requirements restricting the monetary and non-monetary benefits which can be received by investment adviser and portfolio manager firms, the FCA notes that “firms which provide independent or restricted advice to retail clients in the UK, and which are subject to COBS 2.3A.15 R, and / or to the rules in COBS 6.1A, cannot accept any payment, commission or benefit of any kind which is paid or provided in connection with their business of advising, except for: any form of charge payable by or on behalf of a retail client in relation to the provision of a personal recommendation (ie adviser charges)  acceptable minor non-monetary benefits (which, for the avoidance of doubt, cannot involve any monetary payment)


In short, it will no longer be possible for provider firms to ‘procure’ from networks marketing services (including events) in return for access to business opportunities.


Gone are the days that a provider can state their intention is to “spend our budget on buying marketing opportunities directly with the distributor firms (networks) that either support us or that we’re targeting. This was, by the way, a verbatim quote from a major provider firm taken from an e-mail sent by their head of marketing last year. Not at all in keeping with the spirit of the inducements directives post RDR.


The FCA goes on to note that “These new rules do not prevent firms from organising or attending conferences, providing that their actions comply with applicable rules”.


Going further, they say, no doubt with my e mail sentiment noted above in mind "The aim of this was to tackle a concern identified through thematic reviews following the implementation of the RDR, that firms were using various types of payment to secure distribution. We believed this undermined the spirit of the RDR”.


To cut through a lot of regulatory smoke and mirrors, the FCA paper states that payments made by providers to distribution channels like networks will no longer be possible other than for protection products or mortgages. 


The understanding, from conversations in June and July with some Panacea partner firms, is that the days of networks being in receipt of payments from provider firms for various marketing packages or access to network advisers in return for a substantial or indeed any payment cannot continue from the 1st October 2018.


Deminimus is the name of the game now.


This is potentially a very big industry problem Once again an unforeseen impact of regulation.