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Beware of Gimmicks

Call me a cynic, but doesn’t it seem like the platform providers are becoming like the old life offices?

I commonly open post and emails directed at making my business ‘more RDR ready’ or ‘TCF friendly’.

Of course any financial planner with any pride about them will want to be ahead of the pack. We constantly strive to be ethical, compliant, fair and profitable. So what are the platforms offering us to get ahead?

How about a panel of pre approved funds, or a tracking system that tells you when your client has had income and how much, or perhaps a with profits analyser?

I could rattle off the list of gimmicks being rolled out in the recent battlefield (and it is a battlefield) between platform providers. Yes, many of these tools are useful, and in the hands of the right professional they can enhance our businesses. However, I am not fully convinced that there is substance at the bottom of many of these kind offers to help. It reminds me of the huge with profits bond bonanza of the 90’s. The common line from the life office was ‘how can we help you write more business?’

The solution was usually a slap up meal and a day at the races – I still haven’t worked out how that helped? But it was fun at the time!

Have you noticed that certain platforms are now offering us plasma televisions, 3G phones, champagne, winter hampers, i pods and i phones to name a few promotions? Is this right, and how do we feel about it? Personally it makes me feel a bit ill, and surely just a bit compromised?

The point is that I believe in a platform that will really offer me the ability to operate my business proposition. I need to know that the platform is sustainable, has full functionality and offers the right outcome for my clients. The days of bundling assets on to a platform – because it’s good for admin – should be a thing of the past. There is so much more that a good platform has to offer.

One recent platform has just made a song and dance about their recent fund selection tool. Great news! So if I want to make appropriate changes to my client’s portfolios as a result of using this tool, how do I carry that out? I currently would have to complete hundreds of individual instructions to switch each client’s holdings. Most planners will admit that this way of working will prohibit them from actively rebalancing and analysing client portfolios as regularly as they should.

On the surface, new tools such as this one seem cutting edge – and I would have jumped for joy at it three years ago. But actually it is primitive compared to the portfolio analysis and switching mechanisms available through less vocal platforms such as Skandia and Transact in my opinion. For instance, the U Skan technology on Skandia allows you to back test portfolios comprehensively, and feed asset allocation decisions directly into all of your client portfolios, once you have their specific permission, at the press of a button. This really is substance in my view.

My message to platforms is this – stop spending your money on promotions and frills. It makes you and our profession look cheap.

And to my fellow planners I would say – pick the platform to suit your proposition – don’t let the platform pick your proposition for you.

Darren Lloyd Thomas is director of Thomas and Thomas


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There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Slap up meals, a day at the races, plasma televisions, 3G phones, champagne, winter hampers, i pods and i phones?????? Good God man what platforms are you using? I’m on the phone now to my broker consultant to ask him where my goodie bag is!

  2. Well said Darren. There is a fine line between value added and bribery and I feel that the financial industry has yet to work out where that line is.

    As a client of your excellent practice I expect to get unbaised advice based on the best tools available, not ones given free by a platform provider, who I thought was somebody who worked for Railtrack.

    It seems to me that many of these are just trying to get me to switch more often and to spend more money with them, whether it is right for me or not. I am pleased that you don’t get carried along by them.

  3. Darren Lloyd Thomas 21st January 2010 at 10:05 am

    Many thanks for your kind words David. You are sadly correct that our profession is held back somewhat by the behaviour of its support services and product providers. The times are changing – slowly!

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