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.”
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.”