The relationship between a financial adviser and client can be strained, and in the worst cases broken, if platforms don’t perform, writes Novia Global’s head of customer service, Dave Field.
There has been a great deal of press recently around re-platforming in the UK, which is the process of a platform upgrading their internal technology.
Typically, it involves a migration of data from one system to another and will often include new online journeys and processes. Some of the stories that have come out have sounded pretty awful, causing a significant strain on the adviser/client relationship.
When it is done well, a platform can really enhance the service that an adviser or trust company offers a client, however when it doesn’t work it will almost always reflect badly on the adviser, who is ultimately the one responsible for selecting the platform.
The inability to access client records, missed payments to both advisers and clients and the inability to place trades will inevitably have a huge impact on both the adviser and client.
Re-platforming usually happens as a result of needing to upgrade old technology – in the UK this is happening for platforms who have been around for a while, as the platform industry is a relatively mature one now.
Having been involved in platforms since the start all those years ago, the technology can, like me, be going a bit grey and slowing down a bit.
In the offshore space, a lot of the legacy “technology” in use is in reality still a paper-based process, with platforms only recently coming in to this space – so while we are probably a while a way from seeing any re-platforming activity it is important for advisers and trust companies to consider the technology in use by their platforms or custodians.
Bolting a flash website on to an old-fashioned back office system may create short-term gains but, in the long term, can lead to significant pain.
Technology should be used to create efficiencies within the business and enhance the client relationship; however, as we have seen, it can also create real problems when it doesn’t work.
One of the key benefits of technology is the ability to remove paper from the process.
A paperless application process ensures that all the data is captured accurately at the first attempt and is received by the platform instantly.
When this is coupled with pre-population of Sipp & trust cases online what should be a complex process can be completed in a matter of minutes.
The removal of paper also takes away the need to post anything, which offshore can be very time consuming as well as running the risk of the paper being lost.
The ability to key trades online and pass them straight through to the fund managers ensures that they are placed in a timely manner and done correctly.
It also allows sophisticated model portfolio technology to provide access to professional outsourced investment solutions at a fraction of the cost of the typical bespoke portfolio management service and opens it up to any value of investment.
When you throw in the ability to allow a dual approval process that doesn’t involve sending a bit of paper from adviser to trustee and then on to platform it really does create huge efficiencies and client benefits.
Success or suffer
All of the above create significant efficiencies within an adviser’s business but also help to improve the service they can provide to the client. With the changes in regulations encouraging advisers towards an on-going service model, these services become increasingly important.
The ability to white-label websites and documents improves the adviser’s brand recognition with their clients.
Online valuations and statements and sophisticated portfolio analysis tools allow for a much more thorough client review process and, with the ability to upload these documents to all clients in one go at the touch of a button, allows for both a robust and repeatable process or bespoke approach to be followed.
It is clear that, when used correctly, technology can be a real enabler for the adviser/client relationship.
Therefore, it should be a key factor in deciding which platform to choose because once the decision is made and the clients are moved on to the platform it will be the adviser and client who ultimately benefit or suffer as a result.