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Sesame Bankhall hires new MD to drive digital services

Adviser network Sesame Bankhall Group has appointed Richard Howells as managing director of Sesame Network to help drive growth in digital services.

Mr Howells has a long track record in the financial and intermediary sector, including Zurich Financial Services and Berkeley Independent Advisers.

In his new role he will report to group managing director, Martin Schultheiss. He will take up his new role at the beginning of April, joining the executive team.

Mr Howells has 20 years’ industry experience in a range of executive roles. He was most recently director of insurance wealth life & pensions at Experian.

Prior to this he spent spent seven years at Zurich Financial Services as UK intermediary sales director. Other senior roles include managing director of strategy & development at Bankhall, along with chief executive of Berkeley Independent Advisers.

Mr Schultheiss said: “Richard’s industry background is ideal for us, combining a successful financial advisory track record in executive roles, with recent years spent working on disruptive digital engagement strategies.

“Richard will bring fresh thinking to our future plans, helping to ensure our members compete successfully in a digital world. Our group is investing in a range of exciting new services that will be built with advisers, for advisers, and with a clear focus on the delivery of great service and good customer outcomes.”

Mr Howells said: “SBG is investing heavily in the future of professional advice and there are exciting times ahead for its members. I can’t wait to start working with the team to help strengthen our member relationships further, and develop a new range of compelling propositions, as well as ensuring that Sesame champions the valuable service delivered to customers by its mortgage and protection firms.”

Sesame has one of the UK’s largest appointed representative networks and its Bankhall arm supports adviser firms directly regulated by the FCA.

Old Mutual plans to grow Financial Adviser School

Old Mutual Wealth intends to scale up its Financial Adviser School (FAS) to help close the advice gap.

Richard Freeman, chief distribution officer at Old Mutual Wealth, who presented eight graduates with their graduation certificates at a ceremony explained he would like to see hundreds of students coming through the school eventually.

He added the school, which was originally set up by Sesame Bankhall, should appeal to people from “right across the board” as it recruited more students, including those who had left the armed services and others from outside the financial services industry.

The Financial Adviser School received 319 enquiries and 90 applications by the end of the first quarter of 2017, and currently has 37 students, the average age of which is 27.

Mr Freeman said: “I think at the moment it is a tiny part [of closing the advice gap] but we can scale this up.”

Darren Smith, head of the Financial Adviser School, said attracting more women and introducing financial services to them as a career option was a key focus for him.

According to Old Mutual Wealth, 29 per cent of the Financial Adviser School students are women.

Eleanor Armson was among the eight who graduated earlier this week and one of two female graduates.

When asked why she chose to study at the school, she said she was not just looking for a job when she applied but a career in financial advice.

“We knew where we were going, and there was a clear path. That is kind of what appealed to me about it,” she added.

Ms Armson, who studied for a degree in English and Film before going on to work in recruitment for a while, also acknowledged the school’s focus on attracting more women into the industry.

“I think it’s a great industry for women and it’s a great opportunity to get into finance as well,” she suggested.

“I think it’s one of those industries that is really suited to women as well because it plays to their strengths.”

Having completed the course, Ms Armson said she is going to be working for Old Mutual Wealth Private Client Advisers, which is a sponsor of the school.

Mr Smith said: “The great thing about that is we have a friendly sponsor who we continue to get feedback from on how we adapt the programme.”

From May 2017, the course offered by the school will run in line with the government’s apprenticeship model, which will see the course extended from 47 to 58 weeks.

Mr Freeman believed the apprenticeship model was a “great initiative” from government.

He said the school could also expand by offering a chartered course and a paraplanner course.

“So people can come in at different levels, different costs, different courses,” he added. “We’re not just teaching financial advice. I think that’s probably next year.”

Old Mutual Wealth-backed network Intrinsic completed the acquisition of Sesame’s Financial Adviser School in February 2016.

Intrinsic reached a provisional agreement in late 2015 to acquire the school, which was founded by Sesame Bankhall Group in 2011, after the latter opted to wind down the training academy as part of a strategic review.

It was also announced this week Cara Gilbert had become the youngest person in the country to complete the diploma in financial planning from the Personal Finance Society.

Ms Gilbert, who is 19 years old, completed the qualification while working full-time at Standard Life’s Edinburgh office for the past two years.

She said: “I knew that I wanted to work in the financial sector when I was at school. I enjoyed maths, business management and accounting subjects.”

For more information about Old Mutual Wealth, please visit https://www.oldmutualwealth.co.uk/