Standard Life agreed to sell the only stake it held in an IFA business because it wanted to put "clear blue water" between itself and independent advice models, distribution director Stephen Ingledew says.
The savings and investments provider this week offloaded a 15% holding in national IFA 2plan Wealth Management to multi-tie proposition Openwork.
Ingledew says the company feared accusations of a conflict of interest after 2012 due to its link with 2plan and wanted to be seen to serve "the whole IFA market, not just one or two firms".
"We took a long, hard look at our distribution strategy last year and, with RDR round the corner, we came to the conclusion that we did not want to own or part control any IFA business.
"We regard 2plan as a great business and were very happy with our investment, but we do not want to have the same approach as Aegon (which owns national IFAs Positive Solutions and Origen).
"For Standard Life to be so involved in the delivery of independent financial advice was not really the approach we wanted to take. We wanted to put clear blue water between us, a long-term savings and investments business, and what professional advisers do."
Despite selling its investment in 2plan, Ingledew says the company will retain its stakes in support services providers Tenet, SimplyBiz and threesixty.
It currently owns a near 25% stake in Tenet - alongside Aegon, Friends Provident and Aviva - and a 10% holding in SimplyBiz. It now owns threesixty outright, after buying up the remaining 75% stake in March.
"Supporting those firms continues to be a big part of our strategy, which is why we took the step earlier this year to acquire the rest of threesixty," he says.
IFAs will remain Standard's primary route to market for the "next decade and beyond", Ingledew says.
His remarks followed comments attributed to Standard Life CEO David Nish at the weekend the provider would begin exploring other distribution routes besides advisers, including direct to consumer and via employers.
But Ingledew says: "If we look back at the last 20 years, IFAs have become more and more dominant at addressing customers' long-term savings and investment needs and we see that continuing beyond 2012 and the RDR.
"We are strong in the corporate market and we also have a small direct-to-market business, which represents only 5% of total sales and caters for customers who do not have an IFA.
"We do not want to replicate what professional advisers do because we are not in that game. If we wanted to do that, we would have bought 2plan. But we have a responsibility to provide information to customers.
"The way we see it is: if a customer has complex financial needs, he or she definitely needs to sit down with a fully-qualified professional financial adviser, and that is not what we do."
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An added tier of asset management can of course deliver additional benefits for certain investors, writes Graham Bentley - just be sure you can justify it to the regulator and, especially, the client