Five questions to ask before signing with a network

This article first appeared in Professional Adviser.

Joining an IFA network is an increasingly tempting option for advisers, but what should you consider before taking the plunge? The key points are assessed below:


Robust due diligence is a core pillar of any good adviser business. Take choosing a platform as an example: no competent adviser would begin onboarding a client until they were absolutely satisfied the costs and contract terms truly suited their needs.

The process of joining a network isn’t all that dissimilar from an IFA point of view. Why, then, do so many advisers not give their business the same level of care and attention when it comes to selecting a provider?

Joining a network can open huge opportunities for an adviser firm, but how well an individual does as part of one comes down to several things – frequently dependent on their specific needs and objectives.

It is essential to ensure a network’s ethos and goals align with your own before signing on the dotted line.

We look at the key questions to ask when meeting a prospective network below.

  1. What do I get in return for my fee?

An obvious point, but it’s important to find out what comes within your fee. This will vary from network to network – and the cheapest is rarely the best.

Every firm will take a different percentage, so the best place to start is by asking what you’ll get outside of day-to-day compliance and marketing support.

The key here is to focus on your objectives. If for example, the aim is to grow your business, you may want to ask if you’ll have access to strategic counsel.

More importantly, will this counsel be delivered by senior members of the team who understand your business? And will you be able to speak with the same person every time?

Questions such as these will help you understand if you’re getting good value for money or not.

  1. Who ‘owns’ clients?

In some cases, the network technically owns the clients, which can of course cause issues for appointed representatives who decide they want to leave.

If you get to keep ownership of clients, make sure to ask about the client data migration process when the contract comes to an end.

You want to ascertain if there are any restrictions to how data is migrated owing to data protection or in-house rules. This will avoid you having to endure a lengthy and onerous exit process or, worse, never being able to regain control of clients due to excess red tape.

  1. What’s the ‘get out’ clause?

This is a particularly important consideration, and why it is always worth asking a lawyer to review the contract before you sign.

The key things to check for are excessive notice periods, the retention of fees and other onerous and costly exit terms, such as having to pay run-off cover for things like professional indemnity insurance (PII). Often, something innocuous like the necessity to check a number of files before exit can scupper any plans if it takes months to have those checks carried out.

It’s also worth asking for concrete reassurance that the network has the capacity to handle any exit smoothly and efficiently – make sure to get specifics on times.

  1. Will there be any limitations on the business I can transact?

As the PII market becomes increasingly tougher, a growing number of networks are having to put arduous restrictions in place to obtain their renewal.

If your firm relies on being able to carry out a certain type of business it’s particularly important to find out what sort of restrictions could fall on you as a result.

The key here is to be clear and upfront about your expectations at the outset – this will help you avoid any troublesome surprises down the line.

  1. Why do you want me as an appointed representative?

A conversation with a network should be two-sided, so don’t be afraid to ask what it is that attracts them to your business.

Is it simply your client book, or do they see genuine growth potential over the long term?

Every network’s culture and ethos will be different, and you will only enjoy a truly prosperous relationship if your values are aligned, and if a firm is genuinely invested in helping you and your clients achieve their objectives.

Each and every network is different and has its own strengths, so the right one will depend on you and your business.

Ultimately whoever you are speaking to should be clear and transparent about the terms of any relationship. The above points will ensure you are equipped to make the best possible decision for the future of your business.