In this exclusive interview, Aiva CEO Elizabeth Rey talks about her career to date, the evolution of Aiva in the burgeoning Latin American financial services world and explains how international expansion in new jurisdictions is on the horizon.
The interview is as part of International Investment's The Big Interview - The Advisers series - which is sponsored by Hansard Worldwide. The interview was conducted at Aiva's headquarters in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Click here or on the link below to view the video and/or scroll down to read the interview in full.
Interview conducted, filmed and edited by Gary Robinson.
GR: What is Aiva's history of financial services in the Latin American region
ER: Aiva has a great story. The group is comprised of very different types of business, from the investment line to asset management, to insurance, we manage to supply and to deliver to our distribution solutions that allow them not to give their clients a full flavour [of financial services].
The Aiva group has been developed over time. It started as a family-owned business that then later became part of the very conglomerate group like Old Mutual and today finds itself independent as a wholesaler of solutions to a distribution platform in all of Latin America (Lat Am), covering every country in Lat Am plus the Caribbean.
GR: What are the biggest challenges that face the advisers and the advice industry right now?
ER: There are three major things that are going to happen. There is going to be this transparency change and the need to be very transparent with the client not only with commissions but all of the services and understanding what the real client's needs are and making sure that whatever solutions that are given to the client are fit for purpose. That is going to be an important objective of that future financial adviser.
The financial adviser will also need to upskill and ensure that they are prepared to answer the question that the client is going to ask them. They will need to have continuous studies, education, understanding not only of the region but also the industry and the clients as a whole.
And then there is the client. The client is changing. The client is a more demanding client and in need of very sophisticated advice and therefore that push kind of works very nicely with the need of the adviser to upscale. So, I think if we look at those three challenges it is a great opportunity to be a very different financial adviser and to separate yourself as a very exclusive financial adviser of the future.
GR: How does Avia slot in that framework?
ER: I absolutely think that Aiva is an incredible partner for that. We didn't just start that journey because the industry is changing. We've been in a journey of understanding the client of bringing different solutions [for some time]. We are also understanding that whatever the changes that are needed we can quickly adapt to.
We have the value-added platform that we provide to the advisers [and it] is one that they can plug and play into that is very easy to allow then the time and to have the conviction and, of course, all the needs that they may have to face the clients of today and tomorrow.
GR: What is your background? And what brought you to the position that are in now, as CEO of Aiva?
ER: I am by nature a salesperson. I come from a sales background. But I was in insurance. I've been in insurance all my life. In fact, my strong point is the health insurance market.
My story is very simple really. My story is about coming into a company that was family-owned understanding that there were challenges coming into a company that was growing. Having the growing pains that took this from a family-owned business to one that was sold to a conglomerate. That in itself was very beautiful to me. A beautiful journey. I held many positions on that journey.
I've been in the company since 2000. My first position was to expand the northern side of Latin America - the ‘north cone'. Then I moved here to Uruguay from the US. I was born and raised from the US from Cuban descent. I transferred here to Uruguay in 2006. That was my first round of living here in this great country. [It is] a small country but absolutely beautiful and great.
The journey of the growth of this company was amazing. In 2012 we sold to Old Mutual. And, I was also one of the shareholders, so of course it was a great experience and a great opportunity, and we were given a second opportunity to grow the company and still be a part of Old Mutual of which we did for a couple of years and now we are independent again, which is a great story.
The reason I am sitting in this chair as CEO I think it is because this is about people. This business is about people and my biggest skill is people.
GR: You are already major force in the Lat Am marketplace. Do you have plans to look at other regions in the future?
ER: Yes, we are definitely interested in expanding our wings responsibly. The important word is ‘responsible', because even though people have practically the same needs, the way that they go about those needs and the way that they accomplish those needs are very different.
We want to make sure that we consolidate where we are. We are a strong player in the Lat Am region. We will continue to be a strong player, but we are facing a very important challenge.
The challenge to bring these financial advisers to a position to where they can make a difference to their clients. That is our first responsibility and objective. And then we will move onto other places.
We are definitely rebuilding our distribution. It is a very interesting phenomenon. There is no doubt with the changes and he changes in the industry, that there are some advisers that will probably leave and make other types of choices.
We are looking for that new adviser. The profile has changed and has caused us to go and look for more recruitments. Where are the recruitments happening today?
We are strong in Brazil, [but] we are recruiting. Because we work with a platform of licensed brokers in Brazil, we believe that that model is the way forward. It is the way to protect the client way that we can do business long-term, so Brazil is a country that we are seeking to continue to expand in this way.
We also have a very big expansion in Chile. We have had some acquisition of local independent advisers in Chile as well as Brazil and we will continue to expand in that country. But we have opportunities in Peru and opportunities in the north, we are exploring some opportunities in Mexico, but again we do have distribution in every country [in Lat Am].
We are not looking for the masses. We are not looking do quantity. We are looking for the quality that is needed to provide the solutions for our clients.
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