Sometimes I long for the much simpler investment landscape of 30 years ago. You knew that Old Mutual agents distributed products manufactured by Old Mutual Asset Managers and Liberty representatives sold products by Liberty Asset Management. Exchange controls were tight, so there was no point in researching international asset managers. It was a short value chain offering the choice of a few vertically integrated product providers. The main issue was that endowment policies were favoured over unit trusts due to high upfront commissions earned.

When independent brokers came into the market — now more grandiosely styled as independent financial advisers — there was the opportunity to get a wider range of products from a single source. It was realistic to expect the broker to be knowledgeable about the handful of product providers in the market. It was certainly a core competence for advisers to keep up to date with the latest of these products, just as doctors keep up with the l...

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