Marcel Bradshaw, sales director at OMI, said the company’s new wealth interactive system, an online service which was rolled out last year, has experienced some issues with advisers using the system. A specific issue is with bulk valuations, which has impacted brokers users its data download service.
He said the system is the company’s “top priority”, adding that the issues have “largely been resolved”, with some fixes having already been made to the system.
“We do not believe the adviser’s reputation will be impacted or a regulatory issue will arise if all advisers have done is pass on information in good faith,” he said. “However, if any adviser does experience any detriment or regulatory problems we will work with them to resolve the matter.
“We still have some way to go before the system reaches its full potential, in the meantime we apologise for any inconvenience the system is causing, and would urge any advisers experiencing specific issues to talk to us about them.”
Bradshaw said the company, which rebranded from Skandia International at the end of last year, will continue to broaden its focus on Latin America over 2015, exploring opportunities in Miami, often used as a hub for local high net worth Latin American investors.
“We now have an offshore insurance exemption in Florida which enables us to service its market with sophisticated financial solutions,” he said. “We are already seeing clear demand for these solutions from premier banks, law firms, and family offices in Miami, so this could be a really exciting opportunity.”
He said the company will continue to develop in Africa following ex-Friends Provident International senior regional sales manager Matthew Firman’s appointment as area manager for Africa in July last year.
“Firman is doing a great job developing relationships with Old Mutual Africa and local IFAs and banks, helping to broaden our reach in the region,” he said.
Asia growth plans
In Asia, Bradshaw said Old Mutual has “ambitious growth plans” in the high net worth market, particularly in Singapore, with the launch of new products.
With regard to Singapore’s Financial Advice Industry Review, which looks to improve the city-state’s advice industry through the introduction of deferred commission payments amongst other proposals, Bradshaw said OMI was seeing a greater move towards a spreading of commission “more akin to an advisory fee model”.
In Hong Kong, he said the company’s launch of the Wealth Management Plan, a single premium product compliant with the jurisdiction’s ban on indemnity commission in January, has so far been well received.
On 1 January this year, the Hong Kong Guidance Note 15 was enforced in the region with the aim of improving customer treatment by ensuring that an adviser will receive their commission at regular intervals throughout a policy’s duration, provided certain customer standards are met.
“Advisers [in Hong Kong] will need to consider business models which are more focused on single premium business with recurring income streams,” said Bradshaw.
Last month, the company announced that profits in 2014 had dropped to £37m in 2014 from £49m in 2013, while sales had dropped to £1.8bn from £1.9bn.
Bradshaw said the drops were a result of increasingly competitive markets and regulatory change that can be “significant and expensive” to respond to.
“In 2014 we invested heavily in our new wealth interactive system, in new products and improved distribution, all of which reduced our profits for the year,” he said. “We do not expect the same level of investment to be required over the next couple of years and anticipate these new initiatives to improve sales going forward.”