Old Mutual Wealth names head for its new adviser school

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Old Mutual Wealth has named Darren Smith to head up its Financial Adviser School, which it acquired earlier this year from the Sesame Bankhall Group and which it is planning to run on a not-for-profit basis.

Smith, (pictured), who is based in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, is also director of Equipoise, a financial services industry consultancy, and until last month had been a strategy and propositions consultant with Intrinsic Financial Services, an arm of Old Mutual Wealth.

He will report to Old Mutual Wealth chief distribution officer, Richard Freeman, the company said in a statement.

The Financial Adviser School is headquartered in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, although the classes take place in various locations across the UK, and are supported by ‘virtual classrooms’, an Old Mutual Wealth spokesperson said.

The school looks to help students obtain the qualifications and skills needed to become financial advisers, specifically level 4 financial planning certification – as well, it says, as helping them to develop the “soft-skills” required to build long-term relationships with clients.

It was launched by Sesame Bankhall Group in 2011, and at one point, in 2013, was involved in talks SBG was having that were aimed at establishing an “educational link-up with India”, according to a published report last year, when the firm was talking about closing the school following a strategic review aimed at boosting its own profitability. This was before the deal to sell the school to OMW emerged.

In a statement, Smith said he is “passionate about financial services” and believes that it is “a great career for good quality people”.

Freeman added: “The Financial Adviser School is a big investment from Old Mutual Wealth, and a real demonstration of our commitment to supporting high quality, professional, face-to-face advice.”

More than 100 students

The school can accept more than 100 students a year. The most recent intake of students came in in April, with more set to enrol over the course of the next few months, the statement announcing Smith’s appointment said.

The programme runs over a 9- to ten-month period, with fees for the course typically running around £8,500. Zero-interest loans are available, according to Old Mutual Wealth.

Students study toward the Institute of Financial Services Diploma in Financial Advice (DiPFA).

The school said students from outside the industry are welcome, as are those already working in financial services who are keen to boost their skills, including, for example, mortgage advisers.

More information on the school may be found on its website   by clicking here.

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Gary Robinson

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