Over the last couple of weeks, I have been looking at issues affecting
both IFAs and the industry in general concerning development of financial
This has covered both IFAs' needs to develop their own online presence to
communicate with clients and consumers generally and the industry's
approach to business- to-business portals.
A few weeks ago, AssureSoft announced its IFA Window project to allow
advi-sers to build their own web presence. The service starts this week.
As part of the launch, the company has created a website for all the
13,400 IFA firms in the UK it has identified from public domain
At about the time this week's issue of Money Marketing reaches you, IFAs
should be getting a letter from AssureSoft chief executive David Stewart
saying a web presence has been prepared for them.
Currently, these sites can only be viewed by the IFA firms they have been
prepared for. The letter from AssureSoft details how they can make the
service live so all consumers can access it. They have been pre-populated
with public domain information but it is necessary for advisers to check
the information and further details can be added.
Over the last couple of years, I have looked at the AssureWeb service on a
number of occasions and my main conclusion has been that, while the
organisation has been clearly delivering significant value to DBS members,
it has been questionable how much was really being offered to benefit other
Having had an advanced preview of IFA Window last week, I believe it has
made the transition to a service which has attractions for the vast
majority of IFA firms.
The basic IFA Window package provides a series of templates which can be
used to create a simple web presence for any IFA firm.
Although it is free, it is still really just a basic poster site but must
be of interest to any IFA firm which is totally bereft of an internet
IFAs must subscribe to the Professional Plus version, which is much more
compelling. This includes a range of additional content to make sites into
a live online information source rather than just using static data.
The range includes online product literature and glossaries of key terms,
world and City newsfeeds provided by Reuters and AFX, inter-active
financial calculators, tax bulletins and the My World facility.
The latter service allows individual clients to customise their own space
within the advisers website, all content being protected with a secure
Facilities include online portfolio management, including share price and
key indices, from all leading European stockmarkets.
In addition, Professional Plus users are also provided with dedicated
glossaries and other content relating to mortgages, pensions, life
insurance and protection, invest- ments, healthcare and gen-eral insurance.
For DBS members, all compliance related to the site is automatically
carried out by the DBS compliance department on an expedited basis. Other
IFAs are provided with a facility email from the entire site to the
organisation responsible for compliance.
A special service has also been agreed for directly authorised firms with
Bond Pearce Solicitors, which will compliance-check sites before they go
live for a fee of £50.
Pricing for the Professional Plus service is based on the number of
registered individuals in the firm. For a single RI practice, the set-up
fee is £150, including the cost of their own UK domain name plus a monthly
charge of £30.
For bigger firms, the fees are: two to six RIs, £200 set-up and £60 a
month; seven to 12, £250 and £120 a month; 13 to 18, £300 set-up and £180 a
month; and 19 to 30, £350 and £250 a month.
All these figures assume the use of the standard templates if an own-brand
identity is required or for firms of over 30 RIs, costs are by negotiation.
All figures are, of course, plus VAT. Slightly lower charges apply to DBS
In the first version, the interactive calculators are restricted to three
mortgage tools. However, version two, expected later in the summer, will
add a further range of calculators. In addition, at this stage, IFAs can
also build in AssureWeb's new comparative premium services to the
facilities they offer clients. All its quotation services are built around
the latest Origo standards.
The company tells me it is intent to develop the service to allow full
transaction capability. This would allow clients to source and compare
products and buy them online.
This service represents a major leap forward in the tools available to
IFAs to create a quality web presence. There is, however, as I see it, one
major weakness. While these tools are highly attractive for servicing
existing clients, attracting new customers over the web is all about
building brand presence.
One of the core elements of the AssureWeb proposition is that it will only
deal with IFAs, not direct with the consumer. While this may be attractive
to IFAs who do not like the idea of information being directly available to
the consumer, in practice, it will severely limit the ability to drive new
customers to IFAs.
While I am certain AssureSoft is sincere in its “IFA-only” message, I
believe before too long it will find it essential to develop some sort of
consumer facing conduit to deliver new clients in need of advice.
Tens of millions are being spent by online financial services companies in
seeking to attract new customers. You can have the best web service in the
world but if people do not know about it you are not going to get more
To my mind, the biggest challenge to AssureSoft is getting a message to
the consumer market about the existence of these IFA sites.
I must also take my hat off to AssureSoft on the timing of this launch,
coming as it does a few days before the launch of the new Misys
Just as Misys is launching its offering and trying to att-ract IFA users,
AssureSoft has raised the standard of what it is reasonable for anIFA to
expect of a technology service provider.
The next few months are going to be fascinating as the various parties in
this market battle for market share.
Ian McKenna is a consultant and director of The Financial Technology
Centre. He can be contacted by email at: IanMcKenna@MSN.comTel: 0207-359
5656. Fax: 0207-359 2858