Helen Morrissey talks to Positive Solutions' CEO Jim Reeve about the firm's future direction and how he aims to support partners going forward
You've been in your job for more than six months now - how is it going?
I absolutely love it. It allows me to use all my experiences and skills. Every day you have a slightly different challenge that you need different skills to deal with.
In terms of challenges I think the main one is to stamp my impression on the business. People want to know what my agenda is and I need to build creditability by supporting partners and helping people. Other objectives include getting to grips with the business model and understanding its strengths and opportunities. We then need to link it back to where we need to be as a business. I also need to look at our top team and work out if there are any gaps in our capabilities. We may need to spend time in creating new functions and recruiting people to fill those gaps. This could include developing our sales and marketing teams or creating marketing campaigns.
What feedback have you had from partners from the recent Partner Forum?
I was pleased and encouraged by the strength of positive feeling about the future direction that Positive Solutions is taking. They liked the direction of our Synergy Project as well as the Mortgage Club and Learning Academy. They can see these initiatives build long term value for them and their clients. For those with a long term view of staying in the industry then the Learning Academy is very important for them in helping them to drive their business forward and learn new skills.
At the Partner Forum you unveiled three key initiatives. The Synergy initiative where you partner with a select group of financial services companies to offer the best service to clients; the Mortgage Club which gives partners access to exclusive mortgage deals and finally the Learning Academy which aims to provide partners with a tailor made training programme. When are these initiatives being rolled out?
Our Synergy initiative has already begun with the meetings taking place around the country. The Mortgage Club is also essentially up and running as we've launched a couple of exclusive products. Regarding The Learning Academy, my view is that it would be good to have something in the marketplace in late quarter two of this year. It will take time to analyse feedback, create the platform and learning modules before advertising it. I hope you get the impression that this is more than just a few training courses - this is about building long term value in terms of building adviser competence and taking them into new markets. I think that this approach is one that will possibly drive fundamental changes in how advisers feel they are supported.
Positive Solutions implemented the True Potential technology platform late last year. However, many advisers experienced difficulties with the software on launch. How do things currently stand?
I think it's easy to forget just how big the True Potential initiative has been. I think it's a remarkable achievement that we've been able to deliver this platform. The important thing is that we recognised we could have done better in training and preparing partners for the new system and to support them through implementation.
I do believe we will have an infrastructure and platform that will be market leading and will create an environment where partners can support their clients and deliver a great proposition. It's been a learning experience for everyone and I'm sure no other big distributor would have the capabilities to implement such a huge initiative.
In a business the size of ours we need to understand the needs of our partners and strive to support them in the way they need to be supported.
We need to involve partners in the things we want to introduce - not just on technology but on a whole range of things. We surveyed all the partners on the Learning Academy initiative and asked them for more detail on how they wanted it delivered and charged for etc. In a survey to get a 5% return is good, 10% unbelievable and we've already had 25% response. We are in the process of analysing this data. We need to make sure we are investing in the right things and make sure they know we are thinking about them and their businesses.
What impact do you think that the Retail Distribution Review will have?
I believe we will be winners as a consequence of the RDR as we offer advisers a home that provides them with great service, fantastic rewards, and an exit strategy that they won't get elsewhere. Quality IFAs will be challenging their companies to see if they offer this - they can see that Positive Solutions does. We are not complacent - we are focused on the task in hand.
As the number of IFAs decline how can Positive Solutions attract the best talent out there?
The challenge is for us to invest in making our proposition stronger. Our initiatives are essential in showing what we can offer to quality financial advisers.
We also need to raise awareness of what we stand for. We can do this via the media but also through advertising and increasing awareness of our proposition through our partners. I think this shows we have a diverse group of individuals who are serious about the profession they are engaged in. I think all that put together says we will be challenging and ambitious and I have real confidence in the team to deliver a great result for us.
Given the effect the credit crunch is currently having on the housing market, is now the right time to launch a Mortgage Club?
I believe that the mass affluent have control of their budgets and they aren't looking to buy bigger property so 4/10 of mortgages in the UK come out of their special terms during 2008. This tells me there will be an enormous market for those looking to remortgage during this time. They will need mortgage advice and I think the quality of advisers we have at Positive Solutions can be a point of comfort as we can offer them some great deals as part of the Mortgage Club.
I also think that the value of property can play a big part in retirement planning and so we will see an increase in the use of products such as equity release. I think that equity release can be a good solution as long as a full fact find is carried out and the adviser is confident that they really do understand their client's needs.
How important do you think the retirement planning sector will become for advisers going forward?
Society is getting older and people want to do more in retirement than they ever did before. People don't want to sit in the garden - they want to go jet skiing or travelling. They want to have adventures and live life to the full with their grandchildren. That's why the need for financial planning is even more important in the post retirement world than when you have an income. The key is to understand what capital resources people have and how they can use them to live the lifestyle they want to live. It is an area that advisers certainly need to focus on more.
During the Partner Forum you highlighted the importance of developing wrap capability - how do you see the wrap market developing?
The term wrap means so many things to different people. I see it very simplistically - it's a pot of money that people have invested in over their lifetime. By using wrap capability advisers can become financial coaches for their clients as it enables them to ask clients what do you want to achieve, what's your attitude to risk? What tax environment should the money be in? Do you need the money as income or capital? Forget the term wrap - to me the challenge is not developing the product but developing the expertise of the planner to discuss those things. Financial planners don't feel confident at the moment to talk about these things. If you have a significant amount of money you need an adviser with the gravitas and knowledge to put together a suite of products to meet your needs.
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