This week we are changing tack slightly to look under the bonnet at the technology providers that power the major adviser platforms, starting with Bravura.
While many adviser platforms are opting to move from proprietary to outsourced technology, we are agnostic on whether they should keep technology in-house or outsource. While this series will see us talk to the technology service providers, we will also profile Transact, a platform well-known for its commitment to proprietary technology. We believe technology upgrades of whatever flavour are critical to providing the service and functionality a modern advice firm expects.
There has been a recent flurry of activity as adviser platforms upgrade their “backbone” technology to improve functionality and the range of assets and investments they hold. We use the term “backbone” technology as it provides the infrastructure that underpins platforms.
Technology upgrades are not taken lightly and are a significant investment. As Bravura group chief executive Tony Klim puts it, these are “once-or-twice-in-a-generation” moves.
Bravura powers the Nucleus platform and is currently running re-platforming projects with Ascentric and Fidelity FundsNetwork. Its flagship technology is Sonata and it has invested over Aus$90m in its development. Bravura has users across nine countries, with ambitions to become the leading global provider of underlying platform infrastructure.
However, its business interests and expertise go wider than pure platforms. It also offers fund administration services and technology, powering the systems of some big global players, including BNY Mellon, Citi, L&G and Schroders. Bravura does not provide administration itself, instead preferring to work with partners that use its technology, like Genpact Openwealth, which provides administration for Nucleus on Sonata. It tells us these partners are an important route to market.
Bravura sees itself as an enabler. It can facilitate all sorts of functionality, from fractional trading to pre-funding, if the platform provider wants to turn it on. This is because Sonata technology is “configurable”, meaning if a platform provider wants to launch a new product on its platform it does not have to go back to Bravura to change its code; it can do it independently. Bravura wants its clients to feel self-sufficient at launch. Its workflow system, which is integrated into the platform, means it is also possible to change processes and rules fairly easy. We think it looks intuitive and easy to navigate.
Bravura Sonata is also written on one global code line, so Sonata clients in Australia and New Zealand use the same underlying code as Nucleus. Bravura likens this approach to the iPhone. As its EMEA business development lead Kirsty Worgan puts it, every iPhone uses one operating system but we all customise our own by adding the apps we most want to make our experiences different from one another.
As a result, Bravura can move quickly to roll out new functionality across all its customers. If users want to turn it on they can. It also means platforms using Bravura’s technology could easily integrate with one another should they want to.
Bravura’s culture and philosophy is interesting for a technology firm with large institutional clients. It is firmly customer-centric and by this it really does mean the end-customer. The appointment of Peter Mann as non-executive director is another indication it does not just pay lip service to customer-centricity. Mann famously insisted on keeping one empty seat at Skandia board meetings to represent the end-consumer.
We see a link with this customer-centric approach and Bravura’s enthusiasm for horizontal integration, where workplace, direct-to-consumer and adviser platforms integrate to offer a single view for the end investor. Klim is a staunch proponent. He believes customers want to see direct investments and insurance products, advised assets and workplace pension contributions all in one place. For him, the future is one where Bravura helps support its partners in giving customers access to information, services and products across multiple channels.
Miranda Seath is senior researcher at Platforum