David Child has taken the helm at one of the country's most ambitious adviser firms. Paul Robertson talks to Lifesearch's new managing director
It is a strong point. How many firms out there would have the following information to hand, not to mention equalling it: 94.72% would recommend Lifesearch to family and friends; 53% of those who spoke to the firm but didn’t buy anything would recommend it; and 94% of those who bought and then who lapse their policies would then either definitely or possibly return to Lifesearch.
Interestingly, considering Lifesearch’s 100 advisers, the firm considers the general IFA as one of its main competitors: “Clearly, there are other businesses similar to us out there, some non-advised. But we are also cognisant that smaller IFAs, through networks, also advise their customers on protection. But not in the same concerted, call-centre way that we do,” Child said.
“They have their own customer base and you would expect general IFAs to service their customers fully, which includes giving them advice on protection, although it’s surprising how many don’t.”
This begs the question: is Lifesearch’s business model one that a small adviser could take on? Child’s answer is typical of the attitude at the firm, turning the question to include Lifesearch’s gain. “We have thought about setting up a model that allows small IFAs to either refer their business to us or for us to fulfil for them, clearly with undertakings around the client base belongs to them as opposed to us,” he said.
“But I guess it’s like any business. If we’re getting traction and success from the larger organisations that we’ve just been talking about, it’s where do you put your effort and your resource into making deals work?
“Is it with 500 small IFAs where the complexity is quite intensive, I suspect, versus dealing with one or two directors of Swinton or ASDA? In other words, it’s just about driving opportunities, which make most sense commercially.”
In fact, the commercial realities mean we can expect more deals along the lines of Lifesearch’s fairly well respected deal with Asda: advised sales through the supermarket’s brand. Child sees Lifesearch taking advised sales contracts from firms that did not offer advice to the partners’ referrals.
“What we see is that we can give an improved service and choice from a whole of market offering,” he said. “Therefore, we are promoting that in our conversations and are pushing against an open door in quite a number of cases.
“I think for a lot of companies, it’s not necessarily just about driving the best financial deal for those organisations, it’s actually a matter of reputation. This is even more important, and we believe that we can enhance their reputation in terms of their experience with their customers.”
Anyone reading this must surely, in the face of so many plans, on so many fronts, be wondering what the firm’s horizons could be. While the combination of Child and Baigrie might not rule out total world domination, what are Lifesearch’s growth targets?
As one would expect, they are ambitious: “We think we should be in a position to grow our business by five-fold in the next three years. Whether that’s through extending the products that we sell to customers, whether that’s through increasing our adviser workforce, which we are actively doing, or whether that’s driving up more of those relationships with the Swintons and the ASDAs and other key partners to drive volume at the top level; it’s a mixture really of all those things,” Child said.
For a financial services advice firm already employing 100 advisers to openly state an ambition to quinuple in size during a recession is a bold move. So it’s forward on all fronts at Lifesearch then? “Absolutely,” Child nodded. Business as usual then.
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