With the UK in the teeth of what appears set to be a deep recession, investment conditions difficult to say the least, unemployment rising and the baby boomer retirement bulge due to come to a head in the next four or five years, the challenges we all face are formidable
If this were not enough, we also have the small matter of the RDR and how this will change the way we all do business to contend with between now and the end of 2012.
One may be forgiven for feeling rather apprehensive about this extraordinary sequence of events. On the other hand one may also feel a sense of optimism in that, arguably, there has never been a greater need for quality financial advice for all types of clients be they individuals, businesses or trustees.
In terms of investment planning, nearly 90% of respondents to a survey carried out by AXA have felt some impact from the credit crunch, leading to 40% of wealthier customers reviewing their investments.
This is a good opportunity for advisers to help their clients make informed decisions regarding the spreading of risk, making changes to portfolios and assessing the financial strength of the companies they rate and recommend.
The key challenge lies in their choice of companies to recommend. This decision of which companies and why will no doubt come down to the quality of products offered, the range of support and service provided and, perhaps more critical now than at any time, the strength of the company and its ability to weather the current financial storm.
The launch of AXA Winterthur Wealth Management in autumn 2008 captured the global capabilities and financial strength of AXA Group, together with the heritage of technical and product capability of AXA Wealth Management and the creativity, specialism and track record of outstanding customer service of Winterthur. These complementary strengths mean that this new model wealth management business offers an innovative and leading approach to investment and retirement solutions. The full range of AXA Wealth Management, AXA Isle of Man and Winterthur products is accessible through a single point of contact. Customer service is based on the award winning Winterthur model.
In addition to providing new products, such as the Elevate wrap platform and the recently launched SIPP, The One from Winterthur, a key part of the AXA Winterthur Wealth Management proposition is the depth and breadth of the technical support available to advisers.
Professional Edge is a specialist support offering that brings together seven business consultants, nine regionally based Technical Sales Managers, four International Key Account Managers and an office based technical support function.
Starting in early March, the technical sales team is embarking on a series of 40 pension workshops around the UK. As well as looking at topical pension technical issues these workshops are intended to offer some more practical tips and ideas for business generation and addressing particular client needs in these difficult economic times.
For example, for business clients the current economic climate offers great potential for advisers to combine tax planning with cash flow management by taking advantage of the flexibility offered by SIPPs and SSASs. This is one of many areas to be covered.
Professional Edge Business Consultancy has a number of experienced business consultants, three covering the North Region and three the South Region. The business consultancy team is able to offer support on business transition and help with professional qualifications, both likely to be key issues over the coming months and years as a result of the economic downturn and the likely impact of the RDR. The team is also running a series of innovative Paraplanner development workshops in 2009.
At a 'big picture' level, a national road show at which senior members of the AXA Winterthur Wealth Management team will consider the current challenges facing the financial services profession and highlight the opportunities for advisers in 2009 and beyond is planned for June and July 2009.
AXA Winterthur is also planning a further series of nationwide workshops to consider the impact of the economic downturn on investment planning and how advisers can address this. The award winning AXA Distribution fund and Winterthur Elite funds both have significant anniversaries in 2009 and continue to demonstrate their ongoing resilience. A widening of the offshore product range and the addition of specialist multi-manager funds from Archtias will also provide further power to the proposition.
This year, more than ever, clients will need good advice to help them navigate successfully through what 2009 will throw at them and to ensure that they are making the most of any opportunities that present themselves. The new AXA Winterthur Wealth Management proposition is strongly positioned to help advisers do this. To find out more visit www.axawinterthur.co.uk or call 0845 129 9993.
What made financial headlines over the weekend?
To promote 'long-term investment'
Switching 'hard and expensive'
Smaller funds still packing a punch