Advisers are gearing up for growth this year.
Engage is on track to “smash” new business targets, while London & Country has just seen its biggest recruitment intake.
But executing growth plans is not without its challenges.
These include client budgetary concerns amid the continuing cost of living crisis, the repercussions from increased use of the private health sector to relieve the NHS, inflationary pressures and challenges from ups and downs in the housing market.
But despite these challenges, advisers remain relatively confident about their prospects this year.
“I am really excited for the rest of the year and what next year brings as I think there is a huge opportunity in this industry,” Charlie Cousins director of Engage Health, tells Health & Protection.
“We are seeing the market shrinking via mergers and acquisition which has opened a massive opportunity for brokers who don’t follow the traditional corporate approach,” he adds.
“We are seeing more and more businesses looking to enhance their offering or provide benefits for the first time as many industries are seeing a talent shortage which means they need to look after their staff.”
All of this means that the firm is on track to “smash” new business targets while maintaining 99% retention across the group, Cousins says.
“Our new business numbers are achieved by simply targeting new sectors or opportunities which have traditionally been neglected or ignored by the market,” Cousins continues.
“In terms of our existing business, we ensure we are providing the best service and not overcharging our clients.”
Steve Ellis, associate director at Prosperis, agrees, adding there are many opportunities still out there despite the challenging economic climate.
“Employers are seeking value for money and justification for their benefit spend,” Ellis says.
“It is up to us as an adviser community to highlight the return on investment achievable.
“This can only be achieved with proper consulting and implementation of benefits.”
But achieving growth within the sector is not without its challenges, with Ellis also expressing fears around adverse impacts of government plans to increase the use of the private sector to reduce pressure on the NHS.
“I hope that this does not bring a negative impact for the private sector as a consequence,” Ellis continues.
“Hopefully, an unwanted spin off of policies being cancelled won’t be the result.”
Added to the mix is the continued fallout from the cost of living crisis – particularly among renters and mortgage policy holders.
Miles Robinson, founder and director of Home Group Financial, says the market is “unsettling” with interest rates moving up and down.
“The challenge is managing customer expectations and ensuring they understand that certain elements are outside of the advisers control and we are here to guide and help them on the journey,” Robinson continues.
“Ultimately, it’s a matter of getting with it regardless but there is a transition period everyone is going through with managing rate uncertainty.”
Mark Harrington, chief operating officer at London & Country Mortgages, says there is clearly some potential for the ups and downs of the housing market to have an impact this year.
“It’s likely that buyers will be waiting to see how the latest spike in interest rates pans out and so the purchase market is likely to see less activity in the second half of the year,” Harrington continues.
“However, there is clearly a large number of borrowers that will be coming to the end of their low fixed rates and will be looking to remortgage.”
But concerns around budgets also apply to employers, Ellis says.
“Budgets are under the microscope, meaning we must focus on the delivery of the value element to justify the investment our customers are making,” he continues.
“Clearly the issues in the NHS are there for all to see and this has increased demand for PMI. This does mean potential pinch points for PMI delivery.
“Looking ahead, if a lot of new schemes are written on a medical history disregarded basis, there may be the potential for some awkward conversations at rate review if pre-existing conditions are at a high level.
“This may be a case to manage expectations.”
Geared up for growth
Ultimately though, despite all these challenges, it appears advisers remain confident about business growth prospects this year.
Seasoned veteran, Alan Lakey, director of Highclere Financial Service and CIExpert, told Health & Protection: “I’ve been through interest rates at 15% and house price falls, etc.
“There are always opportunities inasmuch as the consumer is massively under-insured and is only a sensible conversation away from taking essential protections.”
But such positive sentiment extends to those in the early stages of growing their business -Robinson already has one eye on adding to his team.
“I’m personally managing recruitment as the founder,” he continues.
“The first few advisers will be first through the door and I need the right people to help the business grow before we scale to become a multi-adviser firm.
“At this stage I’ll be looking to build a strong relationship with a recruiter, like having a good mortgage or financial adviser. I believe a strong recruiter is worth their weight in gold to find the right people.
“However, at early stages of a business managing cost and building personal relationships right from the beginning is really important.”
Harrington revealed L&C’s latest intake was the largest of recent times.
“We have been lucky to have received applications from candidates with a vast amount of experience, including from advisers with over 10 years in the market,” Harrington says.
“We have the ability to employ experienced advisers located across the UK who are looking for a new challenge and are attracted by our recognised brand.
“That also helps us learn from experience in the wider market and allows us to widen our search rather than have any geographical restrictions.
“However, we also continue to see a lot of success with trainee advisers coming through our academies in Newcastle and Bath, allowing us to bring new blood into the market.”
And Feiner reveals Lifepoint is committed to “massive” growth.
“Although this is commercially sensitive, I can share that we are committed to massive growth,” Feiner says.
“Where focus goes, energy flows and results show and 1% better each day compounds over a period of time. It’s rarely about big bombastic moves, rather the slow and steady commitment to taking thousands of small steps.”