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Ian McKenna: SimplyBiz’s investment advice system impresses

New Centra system is a powerful tool that can deliver major benefits for members

Technology is the adviser’s best friend when it comes to reducing costs, increasing profitability and delivering consistent compliance.

The history of technology companies providing solutions that advisers find it easy to work with is chequered, but it is fair to say things are getting a lot better.

This week I want to look at a good example of this.

SimplyBiz recently announced it will be rolling out the new Centra system in March to provide its advisers with an end-to-end investment advice service and I have been given an advanced preview.

Companies using SimplyBiz will have access to unlimited licenses for this software free of charge within their standard contract. Importantly, the system, which is a bespoke adaptation of Defaqto’s Engage system with content built specifically for SimplyBiz members, is platform, investment and
wrapper agnostic.

Centra will have its own centralised investment proposition, with an investment committee made up of key SimplyBiz people and independents. Extensive support will be provided to members who wish to adopt this CIP, guiding them through the necessary regulatory steps to maintain it and produce the documentation required to demonstrate it is robust.

It starts with goal-based financial planning tools, embracing both investments and pensions. This leads to integrated research and allows the user to start from any point, be it the platform, the investment or the wrapper.

All the information entered into the system is populated to suitability report-writing tools based on Microsoft Word and developed using a series of wizards which help the advisers select options they wish to include.

Client information is populated from Intelliflo’s Intelligent Office system for those adviser firms that use it. If not, they can enter their own data into Centra.

Increased choice

I am particularly pleased to see the system has been built so that advisers can choose from a range of different risk-profiling solutions.

Integration has been included with A2Risk, Finametrica and Oxford Risk and, in the set-up process, the user chooses their preferred system.

Once a goal has been selected with the client for growth, income or protection, it navigates the risk-profiling process to understand investor experience, attitude to risk and capacity for loss. These are brought together in a single summary to show how they interact using Monte Carlo simulation.

It is clear close attention has been paid to meeting the requirements of the FCA’s finalised guidance on assessing suitability (FG11/15) and assessing suitability; replacement business and centralised investment propositions (FG12/16).

Depending on the route the adviser chooses, the system refines the number of platforms, investments and wrappers that can be used to address any given scenario. Each time you apply a filter, the number of each reduces so the adviser reaches a point where they have the specific options they wish to recommend.

Investments can be selected from a wide range of fund universes, including Defaqto risk-rated funds, RSM funds and many others similar. All the normal wrappers are also supported.

The system generates extensive analysis on annual management charges, ongoing charge figures, asset allocation, performance data and an exhaustive summary of background data and processes, ideal for creating detailed client files that should keep compliance offices and regulators very happy.

It shows excellent examples of ways advisers should now expect to see systems operating through the use of application program interface integrations. Such developments have been a long time coming in the adviser software market, and I am delighted to see more examples becoming a reality.

Major benefits

In Centra, SimplyBiz is providing its members with a powerful tool that can deliver major benefits.

However, the extent to which member companies are able to achieve these benefits will be defined by how they embrace the necessary training and process evolution to make Centra core to the way they do business.

Even though this is only the first release, I am impressed by its content, functionality and usability, and there are many more features to follow in the coming months.

Remember that regulated advice is a complex process. It is not reasonable to expect software like this to be as easy to use as social media or other basic technologies.

Advisers who commit the necessary time and effort to become fluent in using software will reap enormous benefits.

Ian McKenna is director at Finance & Technology Research Centre


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  1. Monte Carlo simulation is great until it crashes.

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