The creation of a combined Assuresoft/m-link portal following the Misys
takeover of DBS means competition from other IFA trading platforms will
become more important than ever.
The portals were clearly a decisive factor in the deal and Misys appears
to have big plans for creating a super-portal from both operations.
Misys chief executive (ins-urance division) Ivan Martin says: “We do see
the combination of both portals as a powerful proposition and a significant
force. DBS brings to Misys 2,900 RIs but, when you add the capability
of combined portals, there was a distinct attraction.”
Consolidation in the portals has been expected for some time. But while
the size of a combined m-link/Assuresoft portal may seem like a threat to
rivals such as the Exchange and Synaptic Systems, the industry believes it
is more important than ever to have strong alternatives.
The independence of other portals is seen as critical to maintain
competition in the portals market, from which both providers and
independent advisers benefit.
Financial Technology Centre director Ian McKenna says: “It makes it even
more important to have an alternative in The Exchange. The move makes The
Exchange more significant – it is the largest independent technology
platform. It is not tied to distribution and so providers will be doing
everything they can to make sure there are healthy competing players.”
The Exchange makes it clear that it sees itself as a step above Assuresoft
and m-link and hopes its independence will attract more business.
Exchange FS corporate development director Jim Gaskin says: “The number of
quotations carried out on the Exchange continues to go up and we can
now offer complete end-to-end processing. It is in the public interest that
the Exchange remains independent. We are fighting the corner for
independence. IFAs respect us as an independent portal.”
Technology experts predict that Assuresoft is likely to be the dominant
force in a combined portal. M-link was launched only a year ago and its
set-up is not considered as advanced.
Exact details of how the portals will merge are not planned for release
until four to six weeks after the takeover deal is completed, which is not
expected to happen until late August.
However, industry experts are warning Misys to move fast in creating a
strategy to ensure IFAs do not lose interest and switch to other services.
Other portals could take advantage of the lengthy integration process and
snap up users.
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young vice-president and head of insurance services
Shaun Crawford says: “They will get into difficulty if they do not move
quickly. They need to be very speedy to show a clear strategy to win over
the hearts and minds of IFAs and providers or they will be in danger of
losing people to rivals such as Bankhall. IFAs will want this to be
Assuresoft has not always had a happy relationship with IFAs. It launched
with a share scheme incentive offering shares in the company ahead of a
potential stockmarket float to encourage IFAs to sign up.
But the scheme came under fire from IFAs and the Advertising Standards
Authority for not making it clear that only heads of firms would get any
The takeover deal now means that IFAs will not get any benefits anyway.
Some IFAs might need convincing that the combined portal will benefit
them, fearing that Misys might be able to secure a stranglehold on the
market to the detriment of IFAs. Others see the move as logical.
Hughes Carne IFA director Keith Jarman says: “It is inevitable that there
will be consolidation – it is a commercial world out there.
“I think that we will end up with a few big players, as you do in any
industry. I do not have a problem with that as long as they are efficient