24-year-old adviser network targets risk-managed sustainable growth
Julian Harris has been running his Adviser Network for 24 years. He talks to Adviser Business Review about his decision to start his own business and his growth plans for the network
In 1992 Julian Harris founded Julian Harris Adviser Network, providing regulatory and consultancy services for both financial advisers and mortgage advisers. Part of the offering is a scheme which helps mortgage advisers become IFAs. The Kent-based network currently has over 150 members and is targeting a level of sustainable growth managed against business risk.
Adviser Business Review: What inspired you to set up the network and how have you grown since inception?
Julian Harris: Back in the 1980s I worked as a broker consultant with Standard Life and then switched to setting up their direct sales in Kent and Sussex. Two years later, in 1992, I was walking into the Standard Life office in Maidstone and I felt a little depressed; I was on a good salary, subsidised mortgage, PMI, company car and I had a one year old child. But I asked myself, did I want to keep working for a large firm for the rest of my working life? I realised that I didn’t want to do that and made the decision to hand my notice in. I managed to recruit to my network some of the advisory firms I covered as a broker consultant and that got the ball rolling.
As the network grew bigger it became easier to recruit more members and we now work with advisers in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. We certainly had some problems along the way, but we learnt from those and now have a very good set up in all respects.
ABR: Do you believe ever encroaching regulation will lead to an increase in advisers joining networks?
JH: There was quite a long period when very few IFAs entered the marketplace, due mainly to the complexity and cost of training them. I am pleased to report this has certainly changed in recent years and it needed to, given the average age of IFAs had risen close to retirement age! Since mortgage advice was regulated in 2005, the number of network members has risen rapidly due to them needing help to comply with the regulatory requirements. Many of those advisers have gone on to become IFAs with us.
ABR: Your “Progression to IFA status” scheme gives mortgage advisers help in becoming IFAs. How popular has it proved?
JH: It has proved popular with intelligent, progressive mortgage advisers who wished to expand their knowledge into pensions and investments. It’s not for every mortgage/ insurance adviser, but for some I have seen great changes in both their professionalism and earnings.
ABR: Much has been made of how networks select fund managers to manage in-house funds; what’s your view on the issue?
JH: We take a different approach to this compared with most other networks in that we do not restrict our members to using a centralised investment proposition. Our members can select whichever platform and funds they consider to be the most suitable for each of their clients. The adviser uploads independent research to evidence their advice, which we check to ensure we agree with their advice and recommendations.
ABR: How do set your fees?
JH: We last set our fees about 15 years ago and have no plans to increase those, although being percentage based you could say they automatically increase. We run a tight ship and have a modest, mortgage-free head office, all of which enables us to pass on low charges and competitive, unfettered services.
ABR: How do you market your services and what are your plans for future growth?
JH: We are very active in all kinds of social media and are expanding this further. It’s certainly the future and most cost effective form of marketing. We also utilise email marketing and Google.
In terms of growth, our plan is to continue to expand at a manageable rate, which we perceive to be around 10 new recruits a month, although that’s subject to regular review. Managing risks is the most important thing. We have been operating since 1992 and in that time many financial firms have ceased trading, mainly because they did not foresee and successfully manage the risks to their business.