The coronavirus pandemic has created a lot of changes for the financial advice sector in terms of technology and an increased need for estate planning.
But it has also highlighted a gap in the market with the rise in demand for repatriation services.
More and more people are looking at moving back to the UK due to covid and they need help with their financial affairs overseas.
Brendan Dolan, global sales director at Quilter International, said that he believes there is an “increasing opportunity” for firms in the advice market to become a household name for repatriation services.
“Something I saw throughout the year was increasing repatriation”, Dolan said. “It can range from losing your job to prolonged absence from extended family, but that highlighted the increasing need for advice around it. People are going back to the UK, some reluctantly, some because that is their direction of travel.
“This has made people ask ‘do I need to simplify my affairs?’ When you’re an expat repatriating, these things definitely come to the fore. I have seen an increasing demand for tax trust, estate planning, wealth, succession solutions, around all the regions.
“You’re seeing some of the international advisers have a UK operation, and they’re trying to work out how they deal with expats returning. I see that growing and an increasing opportunity.
“But it’s got its challenges. These people have bought products offshore, and they are going to bring them back to the UK and they need advice on it, because the question is, have they been sold to them properly?
“I think is a great opportunity for those advisers that are setting up to cover both. If you don’t do it formally, it won’t grow as you will pick up certain clients.”
Selling products remotely
Another big change with covid was technology. Firms had to adapt to doing business online which is not the easiest.
And adapting to this was a different experience for everyone.
Dolan added: “The biggest thing from a sales point of view for me was I just described how we got our collateral to advisers.
“Many people say ‘we don’t need to go back in the office, we can work remotely’. But from a sales perspective, the foundation of selling is building relationship.
“It is so hard to build a relationship over digital communication. The relationships you have now are because you met them and spend time with the person, building the foundation.
“What I saw was advisers that were supporting existing clients really well. But the question was, how does an adviser find a new client?
“I was talking to all the heads of business about this, and there was definitely one common response, ‘it takes a lot longer’.
“A really good salesperson, after two to three meetings, they have the business if you get down to the sales process. When they were doing it remotely, it wasn’t two or three, it’s four, or five or six.”
Dolan added that clients showed more interest in products as they “had a bit more time to research”, which increased the time for selling.
This is backed up by recent research from Quilter, as it spoke to 85 advisers across the world and asked what impact the covid-19 outbreak had had on their clients’ attitude to investing, the majority (49%) said that their clients had asked for advice on how to invest more.
Selling is a hard process to carry out remotely, but launching new solutions also is an issue when everything is done online.
Quilter’s research also found 62% of advisers see new opportunities emerging in their region for using offshore bonds. Demand is there for products, but how difficult is it to unveil this to the market?
Dolan said: “One of the latest launches was the French bond. It took a while. It launched in July on a remote basis because no one’s traveling, but it’s gone fantastically well.
“What you’re trying to do is working out within the market you’re in where you can increase the flow. We have good flows around Europe for specific countries. We’ve got into France.
“Sweden’s always a sort of sleeping one, in the sense that, we have a tax driven solution in Sweden and that has really nice flows. We’ve been expanding that and taking on more distributors.
“If you go to the Middle East, that has slowed down because we’ve seen that contract and consolidate. We were due to launch a new product into the Middle East, which is more a traditional product, but that’s got delayed. We have also had delays in terms of the growth in Asia.
“Covid has slowed things down. We’ve got things in the pipe around Europe and that will be next year.”
Platforms vs life companies
The covid pandemic has changed how the market operates and Quilter found 70% of adviser are going to increase their use of platforms to place new business online.
This has sparked an age-old debate on life versus platforms.
Dolan says that people have continued to ask him whether platforms are a threat to Quilter’s business, but he does not see it that way.
“I don’t see them as a major threat,” he added. “Because to me, it’s a bit of a an apple and a pear, depending on what you’re looking at. There’s definitely a place for platforms, there’s no question.
“I know all the platforms internationally and some of them have amazing technology, and they can be a really good solution for certain clients. But it really depends on what the client is looking to achieve, what’s their problem and solution.
“If you want to do some estate planning, tax planning, trust planning, you can’t do it on your platform, and it doesn’t give you the advice.
“I’m completely biased, because I’ve worked in international life products for over 35 years, but I always seen it as a multiple solution.”