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Advisers force ATS into apology over replatforming delays

Platform apologises after advisers raise issues with upgrade

ATS chief executive Patrick Mill

Advisers’ calls for an apology over delays, missed income payments and poor communication during Alliance Trust Savings’ replatforming project have been heeded by the firm.

Speaking to Money Marketing, advisers have said they support the business and its fixed-fee model, but called the replatforming experience a “shambles” and “badly managed”.

ATS had hoped to launch its new platform in the third quarter of 2016 but will now do so in about a month.

Candid Financial director Justin Modray thinks communication from ATS has been “patchy”.

He says:  “The big ongoing issue for us is that ATS administration is in turmoil. It’s under-resourced and staff, I imagine, are continuously fighting fire. They are having to work with the old platform, new platform, and probably the Stocktrade platform too. Throw in bucket loads of errors and complaints and it’s easy to see why it often takes up to an hour to get through to ATS adviser support by phone.”

Advisers say they have experienced issues in recent months including missed income payments, delays opening new accounts, valuations being shown in dollars, and application forms going missing.

Adviser-facing staff have also resigned, Money Marketing was also told.

Richmond Wealth senior partner Chris Bryans recalls writing to the Alliance Trust Savings about a client who had not received their income payment urging the platform to rectify the situation immediately. He received an acknowledgement from Alliance Trust Savings 10 days later but little other follow-up until he called the business to solve the problem.

Like Modray, Bryans is supportive of Alliance Trust, saying it is the best value platform for his clients.

However, he says: “There doesn’t seem to be an appreciation of how important it is to get these things right. If the client doesn’t get an income payment, that has an impact on their lives, it has an impact on us as a firm.

“It has felt very demoralising because we have been banging the drum for Alliance Trust and we still believe they are the right firm for our clients.”

Stacked up: Are technology providers up to the replatforming workload?

Bryans and CharterGroup Financial Management financial adviser Grant Mitchell think the platform should apologise.

Mitchell says: “It should make an open apology to every IFA and person who has used its platform because it is a total and utter mess.”

ATS chief executive Patrick Mill says he is “sincerely sorry” for the hiccups that have occurred.

Mill says: “As the only flat fee platform for advisers in the UK, we have a unique set of circumstances with our technology upgrade. Our proposition has a much larger investment universe than almost any other platform, with advisers trading listed securities on behalf of their clients frequently. We’re determined to get this upgrade right, and we’ve been consulting with advisers throughout the process.

“I recognise some of the inevitable teething problems have caused frustration and for that I’m sincerely sorry. I also acknowledge that communications to advisers throughout this project could have been better and I will be addressing this issue over the coming days and weeks.

“Improving service levels and delivering our new market leading technology is a priority for myself and my team and we’re not going to cut any corners in a race to launch. This unfortunately does take time and we appreciate advisers continued support as we complete this transition.”

 

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Comments

There are 6 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Anthony Smith 7th June 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Once they are on the latest version of Composer it will be cutting edge.

  2. Justin Modray 7th June 2017 at 4:19 pm

    The sad reality is that while ATS has been grappling with their long running (2+ years) re-platforming fiasco, the rest of their business has suffered very badly.

    Significant delays & too many errors (regardless of old/new platform), compounded by woeful complaints handling – it’s clear there are too few trained staff across the business to cope.

    Overall, a nightmare to deal with from the adviser perspective. And our recent experience suggests things are getting worse, not better.

    When we started using ATS for some of our clients c3 years ago we had a lot of goodwill for and confidence in those running the business. This has unfortunately been eroded over time to the point both are now rock bottom.

    We love the fixed platform fee concept, but ATS is not currently fit for purpose. I sincerely hope someone is able to fix service levels ASAP (not holding my breath, we’ve already been asking ATS for a long time) as the adviser space benefits from having at least one fixed fee platform.

    • Trevor Whiting 7th June 2017 at 8:57 pm

      I agree Justin that there have been some real problems and I guess there is a lesson in respect of re-platforming. This issues encountered by Old Mutual in monetary terms are immense. Despite though the problems and believe me have have faced a few, having had the opportunity to meet with Patrick Mill an colleagues on several occasion, I am totally confident in his ability to steady the ship.You have to understand as well the difficulties between the product provider(ATS)and the chosen tech business(GBST)that will invevitably makes the journey a tough one. In the same way that ATS are dependant on that relationship, so to are we dependant on the ultimate success of a fixed fee platform function and we must partner in it’s very success. The best business relationships are founded on mutual assistance, so let’s get behind ATS at this tough time. I am pleased though Jason that you have been using the platform for 3 years or so, that’s good.

      • Trevor Whiting 7th June 2017 at 8:59 pm

        Now corrected for grammar!

        I agree Justin that there have been some real problems and I guess there is a lesson in respect of re-platforming. This issues encountered by Old Mutual in monetary terms are immense. Despite though the problems and believe me we have faced a few; having had the opportunity to meet with Patrick Mill and colleagues on several occasions, I am totally confident in his ability to steady the ship.You have to understand as well the difficulties between the product provider(ATS)and the chosen tech business(GBST)that will invevitably makes the journey a tough one. In the same way that ATS are dependant on that relationship, so too are we dependant on the ultimate success of a fixed fee platform function and we must partner in it’s very success. The best business relationships are founded on mutual assistance, so let’s get behind ATS at this tough time. I am pleased though Jason that you have been using the platform for 3 years or so, that’s good.

        • Trevor, nice sentiment. But since ATS management has failed to stop service declining markedly over the last 2 years
          and have presided over a seriously flawed attempt to re-platform, I fear your confidence is misplaced.

          ATS wrote to our clients 2 years ago with T&Cs for the new platform stating their accounts would be migrated shortly thereafter. Since then numerous missed deadlines and even the astonishing admission that the new Composer platform would not be able to handle re-investing income! (hopefully fixed by the time it eventually does see the light of day).

          We can live with the re-platforming fiasco/delay, but what we can’t accept is ATS service standards slipping to unworkable levels – as they’ve been for some time. It affects our clients and we have to waste many hours a week trying to get ATS admin errors and issues resolved.

  3. I was very excited about their flat charge proposition until I saw the interface was so similar to AEGON’s ARC

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