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The changing face of business development

The previous two years has been a difficult time for most, but for certain providers it has been particularly harrowing. With the IFA market that they support changing beyond all recognition ahead of the Retail Distribution Review, traditional powerhouses have seen market share dwindle as the products advisers seek becoming increasingly varied and complex.

One man’s misfortune though is another man’s opportunity and in their place other providers have taken advantage. One of the most obvious is the increase in activity of discretionary portfolio managers who have been busy promoting their services to IFA organisations across the country, in effect allowing each IFA to retain control of the client but farm out the research and modelling of the portfolios. The benefits are obvious; many advisers don’t have the time, qualifications or in some cases the expertise to do this adequately, although it is often a service that benefits the higher value client with some companies only seeking investment of above £500,000 in some instances.

The result has been an upturn in the number of business development manager jobs being registered in some markets and in many cases these positions have been senior ones. The reason: given overall market conditions firms are still nervous about the costs of recruitment and therefore wish to maximise their return. It has therefore been those BDMs who have the established networks that have been the most sought after and in many cases those individuals who can practically ‘guarantee’ success have been those who have worked within a particular market for a number of years, and have an established client book.

This has caused other changes. The most marketable business developers have been those who not only have the client base but also excellent technical knowledge of their market area. At present gone are the days of good BDMs being able to flit from one arena to another relying on their people skills alone. Now firms demand technical excellence as well as a proven track record and advanced qualifications are becoming as important as for IFAs, with the IMC becoming a must-have qualification in the investment arena for example.

Other areas where there has been continued activity has been within specialist pensions aimed at High Net Worth individuals, such as SSAS and SIPP. Again not only do businesses require proven BDMs but specialist pension knowledge is vital as firms seek to gain that competitive edge. Similarly there has been a range of new products aimed at getting returns from commercial property or even student property, as the suffering of traditional asset classes gave rise to the development of niche products. New areas are one of the few where technical knowledge falls lower on the client requirement list than experience, track record and personality traits.

What is certain is that for such firms to compete they need the best quality managers with a focus on a small, quality focused salesforce rather than the huge teams that were once the norm. Whilst it could be argued that this is improving the service that IFAs now demand, it does mean that for many it has been a contracting job market, with only the best surviving. Charles Darwin, you are once again vindicated.

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