Barclays prepares for onset of depolarisation

Barclays is one of the world’s largest financial services providers. Barclays Financial Planning, which is part of Barclays’ UK-based private client business, provides financial advice on life, pensions and investment products. It is one of the top five intermediaries in Britain, the fourth-largest financial adviser and the fifth-largest bancassurer.

Q: How will the Barclays multi-tie offering be structured?

A: We looked across the whole market for each individual product, from insurance bonds to unit trusts, to find what we consider to be the best products. No one company is good at everything. As a result, for each main product, we have selected the three top companies. There are six main companies that have filled the boxes: Axa, Friends Provident, Legal & General, Norwich Union, Prudential and Standard Life.

Q: What were the criteria or the processes you used to select your six main providers?

A: We looked at the products in terms of their quality and how they are structured. We also looked at each company, its financial strength, its brand and overall structure. We carefully evaluated how we could make these products available to our customers. Barclays takes a product-based approach and as a result, unlike the offerings of other groups, we have decided not to link to entire companies. Multi-tie is not necessarily the correct term for our offering. Also, some don’t think it is appropriate that we have said we’ve gone whole-of-market, but our process is there to be examined. I think this is a good debating point.

Q: Would Barclays consider adding more ties to its service in future?

A: Yes, the thing is, we don’t have any ties whatsoever. The legal term of tie doesn’t apply to our model. Yes, although there are six providers that make up the majority, those six can’t be the best at everything, so there will be other companies included as well.

Q: How will you decide which providers will be responsible for which areas of the market within your offering?

A: We will base our decision on the above criteria. We are currently in the process of detailed negotiations and contracts to decide which are the top three providers for each product we make available to our advisers.

Q: How will this decision affect your Open Invest service?

A: Open Invest is part of the offering, it’s essentially just the platform. Open Invest is our own in-house supermarket with access to different fund managers and unit trusts. We constantly review which providers we offer through Open Invest.

Q: How does this affect the single-tie you had with Legal & General?

A: Legal & General does have products that meet some of the criteria. We will still have a major relationship with L&G, but in the new world we won’t have the single-tie. Customers will ultimately have more products to choose from. L&G will be sharing on the tied side, but will get more business on the adviser side. In other words, the cake is getting bigger but they will also be getting a bigger share of the cake than they are today.

Q: What about those Barclays advisers who do not wish to be tied to multiple providers on June 1?

A: We have not had any resistance so far. Barclays has chosen the best providers from across the whole market and our intermediaries have said that our approach is better than independent financial advice.

Q: What potential advantages do you think your service can offer clients in the new depolarised market?

A: One big advantage is we will be able to develop bespoke products, which will be available through our advisers. We will be far more efficient in the administration of our business through processing. Advisers will also be able to focus on advice rather than the provider selection element.

Q: What types of bespoke products will you be requesting from your providers?

A: A whole mix of products really – that is why we are in negotiations with the providers at the moment. We hope to have everything from protected, investments and pensions products for our customers. I cannot give specific examples at the moment, but in the coming months, we will be looking to bring these to the market.

Q: Do you see any potential disadvantages to not offering your clients a wider range of funds?

A: No, in fact, our clients gain more of an advantage from our approach. Barclays has stepped back and looked across the whole market: we haven’t constrained ourselves.

Q: What will your advisory service for private clients look like?

A: Our private client service will be much the same as our mass-market offering. They will also have access to products from our providers.

Q: How will the roles of Barclays-owned Gerrard Financial Planning and Sedgwick Independent Financial Consultants change as a result of your decision?

A: Sedgwick is keeping the word “independent” because they are in the corporate market, which is different than the mass marketplace. Gerrard will remain whole-of-market as well. The key difference to why they will remain independent is because they will still be fee-based propositions. Clients who wish to go down the fee route, which not many do, also have that option. Corporations generally pay fees anyway.

Q: Do you think depolarisation will ultimately benefit banks and other large tied groups?

A: I think depolarisation will benefit the customer. I don’t think it is appropriate to say that all banks will benefit. It depends on their proposition and how they look to engage with their customers.

Q: What do you think the future holds for independent advice?

A: The term “independent” will fall away. The distinction will be around how the client pays for advice, whether it’s commission-based or fee-based. In truth, we all do a similar thing: we all look across the market whether you are select choice or an independent financial adviser. The difference is in how the customer pays for the advice.

Q: What does your charging structure look like?

A: We are commission-based. At the outset, the customer is advised through the menu, but we earn commission through the products that are selected.

Q: How do you think Barclays will perform following depolarisation?

A: I think we will see significant growth. We have had a very positive response from our colleagues in the bank as well as from customer research about our select choice offering. This gives us a great deal of confidence about how we are going in future with the business.