Ambitions to write £10bn of business, a unique ownership model, plans for major investment in new technology, and why patience is so essential
You’ve just announced ambitions to write £10bn of business this year. How do you hope to achieve that?
We are already on track to achieve this volume as a result of our recruitment of new advisers and 98 per cent retention of existing firms last year. Openwork advisers produced very strong numbers throughout April, even after the buy-to-let rush, so we are confident looking ahead.
Positive market conditions and volumes underpin our optimistic forecast together with continued demand from customers for high-quality mortgage, protection and general insurance advice. We have transitioned advisers smoothly through the MMR and MCD, enabling them to continue to write business easily in 2016. We have added lender relationships and plan more before the end of the year.
We announced a new structure within the network creating distinct wealth and mortgage channels, meaning advisers will get the benefit of more focus on their particular area of expertise and advice permissions. We expect this to deliver more value into Openwork, write more business and serve more customers.
What can members expect from Openwork for the remainder of 2016?
Not only existing Openwork members but also the wider mortgage market will be seeing much more from us later this year. Our unique ownership model means we are working hard to deliver value to our shareholders – the adviser firms themselves.
Zurich has announced its intention to divest its 25 per cent shareholding, which will mean that Openwork advisers will own 90 per cent of their network in the next few years.
We have exciting plans to grow our protection, mortgage and other mortgage-related product lines this year and into 2017. These plans sit alongside our strong wealth business, which already has strong funds under management and planned new fund launches.
Our focus will continue to ensure we serve our end customers better. We are planning a significant investment in new technology that will enable not only customers today but those in the future to interact easily, 24/7.
We are seeing more interest from firms with mortgage businesses that want to develop a wealth expertise, and vice versa. As the at-retirement and later-life sectors grow, with customers having increasingly complex mortgage and investment advice needs, the Openwork proposition is well placed to cater for firms wanting to expand.
What did you make of the concerns raised by the FCA in its recent mortgage competition feedback statement?
We operate in one of the most competitive mortgage and housing markets in the world. If you look across the Channel to Europe and the costs of buying and selling property, and arranging finance, we can argue that we benchmark well. There is always room for change and I am sure that the industry will respond robustly to the requests for information to support this important work.
If you were not in your current role, what would you like to be doing?
I have always fancied running a vineyard or brewery. I have no skills other than I can usually recognise the difference between wine and beer.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Apparently, I wanted to be an astronaut. Tim Peake beat me to it.
Do you have any secret talents?
I have an immense amount of patience, which is essential as, for yet another year, when victory was only a point away, Tottenham failed to finish above Arsenal.
What is the best advice you have received?
Understand yourself before you try to understand others.
Who is your all-time hero and why?
Winston Churchill is the man. The modern world would not be as free without his overwhelming determination to succeed.
- Year established: 2005
- Number of ARs: Total of 2,948 in the group, broken down as: Openwork – 1,925; Owl Financial – 792; 2plan – 231
Address: Washington House, Lydiard Fields
Swindon SN5 8UB
Registered address: Floor 13
London EC2N 4AD
Openwork launched in 2005 but has been present in the UK financial advice market for more than 40 years through iterations including Hambro Life, Allied Dunbar and, more recently, Zurich Advice Network.Today, Openwork is a large-scale business with funds under management. It is owned by the partners it provides services to, as well as the staff who work out of Swindon and London.