MLC outlines 'direct-to-customer' plan

MLC chief executive Steve Tucker has outlined his company's 'direct-to-customer' model, while taking pains to assure advisers he is not out "to get their clients".

Speaking in Sydney yesterday, Tucker pointed to recent Investment Trends research which found that only a quarter of Australians say they want a full advice plan.

A further 20 per cent of people would like a financial plan, but are happy to follow it up themselves, he said.

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"This is the 'episodic advice' client - the person who wants a bit, but not everything. We haven't traditionally catered well for these people," Tucker said.

A further third of Australians want simple, straightforward advice about one aspect in their lives, he said.

"We've got a system and an industry that is structured around the first lot - the 20 per cent who want everything. And we're grappling with the structures that will allow us to look after the rest," Tucker said.

"Traditionally, financial advisers have had all the conversations with customers. And in a very short period of time you're going to see the emergence of a significant number of direct options to give people access to advice," he said.

MLC/NAB launched its online trading platform, nabtrade, earlier this week to cater to customers who want go 'direct', he said.

"Clients can also ring us and do the phone-based advice, they can get online and virtually construct a financial plan," Tucker added.

But he was quick to acknowledge that many financial planners are worried about the development of direct models among the big institutions.

"[Advisers] think that perhaps MLC's out there to get their clients and change the game for them - and that's not right," Tucker said.

MLC is looking to create a 'bridge' for clients so they can begin to put their toes in water and get comfortable with the concept of advice, he said.

"[We want clients to] understand the value of advice so they can move through and progress to a full financial discussion with a financial planner at some stage in their lives," Tucker said.

To financial planners who are worried about having to change their business models to adapt to the direct-to-consumer environment, he said "why worry about it?".

"Embrace it, and get organised around understanding it. It's about growing the pie in terms of the people who get access to advice," Tucker said.

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