Tony Lanning, director of research and investment at Origen, says the key to investment success is to understand changes and take advantage of them
Over the last 10 years, the financial services sector has experienced a massive amount of change. The pace of change is still accelerating and what we are now seeing is such a dramatic shift in the landscape, it will never be the same again. The trick to being successful in this market is to understand the changes, have a clear vision of the future landscape and build a business to take advantage of it.
Origen entered the IFA market earlier this year as one of the biggest advice and distribution businesses, following the merger of five separate IFA businesses, each with its own area of speciality. It aims to become the adviser of choice for financial solutions, with professionally qualified advisers across the UK in both the individual and corporate market, as well as one of the industry's leading specialist in areas such as annuities, self administered pensions, discretionary management, and IHT planning.
Bringing five companies into one has its many challenges, from developing a single Origen culture to looking at how we operate business-wise on a daily basis.
A programme of change has been essential, with the first steps being taken to lay the foundations for the new business we want to build over the next three years - and beyond.
Centralisation and communication have been and will continue to be a key element. This keeps everyone that works at Origen up to date with what's happening around the business and gives them the tools to help them do their jobs to the best of their ability.
We carried out a cultural inventory, which looked at the correlation between cultural traits and company performance in terms of product development, innovation, quality, employee satisfaction, market share and profitability.
As a result of this cultural inventory, we have been able to make good progress. Elements of this progression have included:
• Developing a Rich Picture - which visually informed our staff of the 'journey' of merging five businesses into one and our stated aims for the future, that was used as an interactive communication tool to bring our vision to life. This saw our chief executive, Gareth Marr, hitting the road.
• Identifying our core values - thus allowing us to translate what they mean to us
• Launching our new company intranet - O-net; which provides all our staff with a single online facility, to find out the latest news from around the company and access the tools and information they need to help them do their jobs.
• Appointing a new internal communications manager - to define and deliver an internal communications strategy that will help deliver Origen's vision and support the commercial aims of the organisation.
An example of how centralised resources can add significant value to the advice proposition is Origen's research & investment department. This team of investment managers and analysts conduct research across the whole product and investment spectrum and the results of this research are contained within a database every member of Origen's staff can access.
This database contains information on the discretionary management service managed for Origen clients by our investment managers; the Origen approved panels for our advisory business covering unit trusts/OEICs, ISAs, investment bonds, structured products and pension products.
The investment team analyses the financial strength of all providers and offers guidance on which product providers we approve of for annuities, bulk buyouts, risk benefits and unit linked plans.
The database also contains a library of notes and bulletins written by the research & investment department on issues affecting Origen's clients, approved funds, the discretionary management service and technical updates. It also contains a tools section developed by the team to assist consultants in a wide range of business areas. For example, a portfolio planning tool, CGT calculator, a chargeable gains on bonds calculator and many others. Generic standard paragraphs are included covering product descriptions and technical paragraphs, and the provider weblinks section allows simple access to external provider weblinks quickly via our database.
The Origen Discretionary Portfolio Management Service (PMS) uses the investment process and portfolio construction of our in-house specialists. We manage seven model portfolios, each of which has a predetermined investment objective and level of risk.
Origen's market continues to change and one of the major changes is that the balance of power has shifted permanently from the manufacturer to the retailer. But only to the right retailer, and the one that can show they are a trusted source of information. Such a company 'owns' and influences a substantial client base and has the resources to invest in the centralised technology and research capabilities needed to deliver advice and products effectively.
With all of the issues facing the financial services market place, there is a significant opportunity to grab a major piece of that market with the right sort of retailer, with the right sort of adviser, with the right sort of distribution business. Naturally, we believe Origen is well placed to take advantage of this scenario as will others who are financially strong, well-run IFA companies, who own their customer base. These companies are the key to addressing the savings gap.
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