The stakeholder world offers many challenges to IFAs and product providers, especially in the corporate advice arena where there are two main issues.
The first is persistency – how can you lock in your corporate clients and keep them loyal to your business?
The second is how can you effectively and efficiently cross-sell into them and still make money?
Product charges are low and it is easy for corporate clients to move without financial loss so the focus has to be on delivery of an exceptional service.
The most effective way of achieving this is through technology and this is where employee benefit software houses such as Aegon Benefits Solutions can step in to help the adviser.
Software companies partner the IFA in delivering enhanced employee benefits propositions which the adviser then takes to corporate clients.
The main thrust is to satisfy the ever-increasing hunger for flexible benefits and employee benefit communication. But these systems often go a lot further by offering IFAs the tools to deepen their relationships with the employer and the employee.
For example, Aegon's mybenefits and mymoneypal products allow the IFA and the employer to communicate the value of the employee benefit package to staff.
This is done through tools such as a total reward statement which simply and effectively puts a value on each employee's role in the firm, not just basic salary but instead the whole package. This has been available to big companies before at considerable cost but is now accessible and affordable.
These types of systems can also flex those benefits and add a whole range of flexible/voluntary products into the employee benefit mix, either at the outset or at any time in the future.
This process is within the control of the IFA and while there is no doubt that flex will become much more the norm in the next five years, right now the focus will probably be on helping employers communicate the existing package. The important thing for the IFA is to get the software into the client to protect themselves from attack by rivals.
Software such as the total reward statement also has a private pension modelling area for staff to aggregate their retirement wealth and forecast what-if scenarios.
Staff have access to the IFA's own branded advice centre, which directs their enquiry to the IFA. The advice centre is tailored to an IFA's requirements and has downloadable IFA fact-find for staff to complete online or off.
Such systems provide the IFA with an invaluable cost-effective cross-selling opportunity. If an employee has used the system to aggregate their retirement wealth, has identified what their potential shortfall might be via the forecaster and completed the factfind, then by the time the IFA gets involved to give the advice, it becomes an efficient and well-informed process.
The most important thing is that the employee has access to independent financial advice via the workplace.
The FSA is keen for advice – generic and educational – to be delivered in the workplace. This has driven Aegon to enhance the total reward statement offering, developed mymoneypal as a worksite education portal aimed at delivering factual, generic information and education on a wide range of financial matters.
This includes information on mortgages, credit cards, travel abroad, home cover and car insurance plus state benefits and tax.
It is also possible to make some non-regulated financial transactions online via an independent portal, with all regulated enquiries generated back to the IFA advice centre.
These types of software solutions should help IFAs deliver a better service to their corporate clients and help with cross-selling opp-ortunities. This type of package aims to enhance the IFA's proposition with its corporate clients by helping employers improve the communication of benefits to staff. This will strengthen the link between client and adviser.
The cross-selling potential means IFAs can deliver state-of-the art cost-effective and profitable employee benefit solutions while helping employees to make their own informed choices.
We are in an environment where service means everything. The financial services industry must deliver value and make the transaction of business as profitable as possible. The more efficient the process, the more profitable the transaction.