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The Big Interview: Standard Life’s David Tiller on why platforms are misunderstood

Standard Life head of adviser propositions and strategy on the increasing conflict of a one-size-fits-all approach to platforms and the emergence of a new model wealth manager

Standard Life head of adviser propositions and strategy David Tiller believes platforms are misunderstood. The reason for this misunderstanding stems from a simplistic view of the value chain as comprising advice, admin and funds.

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But Tiller sees platforms enabling the whole chain. “Platforms automate it. They can’t be considered in isolation; we need to think about the interconnected parts,” he says.

Tiller has spent the bulk of his career at Standard Life, where he has worked for 27 years, most of which in investments. In 2013, he was appointed to take over the platform.

Considering his background, perhaps it was not surprising he saw the investment solution at the centre with the various wrappers placed around it.

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He says: “The investment engine on the platform was critically important. This may sound obvious but the idea of creating a portfolio and putting it in the most appropriate wrapper was new and different.”

Standard Life has three platforms: Fundzone, Wrap and Elevate. Tiller sees Wrap and Elevate serving different parts of the market.

He says: “There is increasing conflict in taking a one-size-fits-all approach to platforms.”

He points to the small proportion of the population who have large amounts of money and complex requirements, and estimates this part of the market represents 60 per cent of adviser assets. But the large part of the market that has less complex requirements than those at the top end still need advice, and this is a group David Tiller feels is under-serviced.

Success in this niche is about efficiency of execution, which requires clean processes, straight-forward reporting and a degree of client self-service, he says.

For David Tiller, these two parts of the market cannot be serviced by one platform. In trying to do so “you will muddy the simplicity and that will become a barrier,” he says. As such, the distinction is clear: Elevate is for those that want advice and Wrap is for higher-end clients with complex needs. He will not comment on the plans for Parmenion following the Standard Life and Aberdeen merger, as it does not yet have  regulatory approval.

On the future of financial advice, Tiller sees a blurring of the lines between the IFA market and the private client market. For him, pre-RDR IFAs were good on tax planning while private client advisers were good at portfolio management. But now these are coming together.

He says: “We are seeing the emergence of a new model wealth manager that combines investments with tax planning.”

He estimates the private client market to have about £850bn assets under management and the IFA market to have £650bn. This puts the total opportunity at £1.2trn to £1.5tn: one of the reasons he is optimistic about continued growth of the retail investment industry more broadly.

As for the direction of platforms more specifically, David Tiller sees a future where cash could be swept out of current accounts into long-term savings accounts daily and invested.

“Rather than delivering quarterly income to investors through scheduled withdrawals, retirees could draw income as and when they need it with alerts to keep their portfolio on track,” he says.

Vertical integration comes in for a lot of criticism. According to Tiller, it is not the business structure that is the problem but the motivation of the people behind it.

He is adamant that Standard Life is not a vertically integrated business, although he acknowledges “there are elements where people are buying more than one component.”

As for 1825, Standard Life’s advice arm? “1825 has the flexibility to change provider if they aren’t happy with the service.”

He acknowledges most new 1825 customers will have their money managed through the platform but existing clients will not be moved unless there is a reason to do so.

“But surely it’s about the customer?” says Tiller.

“Is it about independent and restricted or prioritising customer outcomes? Standard Life supports about 3,000 unique adviser propositions on the platform. 1825 is only two or three. Customer outcomes need to come first.”

While David Tiller’s professional motivations centre on delivering better customer outcomes, his passion lies in the natural world and he studied marine biology at university. But he is also excited about the new models emerging in the investing ecosystem. There are signs of life amid the fossils of yesteryear still apparent today.

Heather Hopkins is head of Platforumplatforum_rgb

She can be reached at heather@platforum.co.uk

 

CV

2015-present: Head of adviser propositions and strategy, Standard Life

2013–15: Head of platform propositions, Standard Life 

2011-12: Head of strategy and Propositions (UK Investments), Standard Life

2007–12: Strategy and business development director, Standard Life Wealth

2005–07: Head of product development, Standard Life Investments

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