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Exchange set to take on super-portal

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

clarified quickly.”

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

shares.

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

and professional.”

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