Legal & General (L&) is considering building a referral system with selected independent advisers who would take over the provider's direct customers when their needs become more complex.
Geoff Towers, managing director for platforms and distribution, said the provider is looking at situations where L&G would begin the direct relationship with a customer and maintain it until they required full advice.
At that point, the provider would point the customer in the direction of an L&G-approved IFA.
Towers said: "We would like to be able to pass appropriate clients to appropriate IFAs. We are looking at situations where L&G deals direct with clients when they are only looking for ISAs, for example, but if and when they need, say, pension consolidation advice, we can then pass them onto IFAs.
However, Towers said the idea would depend on the FSA's rules on referrals. Once the L&G customer has been passed to an IFA, the advice they receive would need to be independent, though Towers said L&G would hope the customer would seek out the provider's products.
"These customers would have started their relationship with L&G and the expectation is that they would already feel warm about L&G. We would expect a referral system [to L&G products] would be natural without having to put heavy levers on it."
Towers said L&G is "committed to the adviser market", and has no immediate plans to chase D2C clients. According to figures from the provider, the majority of its business - 64% - was achieved through the adviser channel last year. Tied and direct distribution accounted for 5% of the total, with the remainder via bancassurance.
"The preference, where possible, is to give the customer back to an IFA, because we think IFAs do advice better. There are occasions when we can't do that, so if the customer wants something we can't help them with, currently we direct them to Unbiased.co.uk," Towers said.
"But the market is changing with the RDR and there is an element of 'never say never' on D2C. In future customers may say I want something direct from L&G."
However, he said the RDR will make providers and advisers more aligned in their goals than ever before: "Everyone post-RDR will be looking at persistency, which will move from the product to the customer. The death of commission means IFAs will need to think: ‘How do keep my customer happy?'
"If a customer understands why they need to do something, such as saving a little bit each month, they are more likely to do it and keep on doing it. RDR allows advisers a lot more time to explain why this is important to clients.
"From the providers' point on view, this means on average customers will probably pay more and for longer, and the lack of product churn mean the cost of products will fall, which will feed back into the industry.
"The question becomes, 'How do you keep the customer longer?', and it is the same question for providers and advisers. Everyone is aligned in the same way."
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