Today (23 September) sees the launch of an online-only intermediary network, Virtual Net, targeting firms across the UK.
Virtual Net is aimed at all adviser firms who have become disenchanted with current networks, or who feel they need to join a network in the face of regulation by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).
Junior Sobowale, chief executive officer of Virtual Net, said: ‘Through our independent market research, we have uncovered widespread antipathy and discontent among IFAs concerning the type and level of service they currently receive. Virtual Net has been created by IFAs and others from within the industry who have become totally disenchanted with the existing network services on offer.
‘The response we have received from our founding members clearly shows that by offering a unique service founded on the principles of speed, efficiency, choice, value for money and real support, we are bound to win favour with the increasing band of discontented IFAs.’
It promises a range of online services, including case submission, real-time case compliance decisions, commission management, training, product research and marketing support. The charging structure includes fixed, commission-based or a pay-as-you-go option.
Other services include a loan facility to cover any indemnity commission payments withheld during the notice period required to leave some networks. New members will have the option to purchase an equity share in the network.
However, Sally Laker, managing director of broker network, Mortgage Intelligence, said: ‘I think we are a way off all intermediaries doing all their business online. There is no question we are moving that way, and it may appeal to those who do, but they are in the minority at the moment. From our feedback, brokers still want to pick up the phone as they usually find it is still quicker.’