A recurring theme in my columns this year has been to identify why it is so important for advisers to become the first digital point of contact for their clients.
This week, in the first of a two-part analysis, I want to look at several options offered by Cofunds to create microsites for advisers’ customers.
Having looked closely at their propositions, I think Cofunds deserves an award for the diverse range of support offerings it provides for advisers in this area. In two weeks’ time I will look at some further options being offered where the company can support even more functional adviser sites.
In addition to the various data feeds it supplies to a wide range of adviser software providers, Cofunds supports no fewer than five different propositions that advisers can offer for clients to gain online access to their investments. It has a proposition to fit literally any budget, from a zero-cost option all the way to totally bespoke propositions where Cofunds supplies data in XML format to populate the services the adviser chooses to offer.
The simplest and cheapest option is to allow the client access to a basic Cofunds consumer service. This facility is not provided automatically for each client but can be set up for them by the adviser via Cofunds’ extranet. It allows the client to see a simple service that primarily provides valuations as an overview of the products and underlying fund values and a transaction history via the cash account.
In addition, users can access account maintenance to add or change their bank account, nominate how income from funds is treated (ie reinvested, kept in a cash account or paid into nominated bank account) and view their standing orders. They can also see any correspondence or documentation sent by Cofunds in pdf format and have access to a simple My Details screen that shows basic client details and can enable a change of password, email address or security question.
If adviser firms have no other digital presence, I think they should at least offer this option to clients.
The next option for advisers is a branded microsite, which has the same layout as the non-branded option but can adopt the adviser logo and colour scheme across the site and allows advisers to add their own text and an image to the login screen. This provides an additional tab called “trade” that allows the client to buy, switch or sell funds on any product on the platform.
Advisers can input their own model portfolios, which clients can select. Or they can use any other funds in the Cofunds universe when switching or buying new funds. Before using the trade function the client can download a new KiiD and personalised illustration.
There is a set-up cost of £1,565 plus VAT for the microsite with a quarterly cost of £310 plus VAT, or £625 if the trading option is included.
A third option, known as “Fund Pass Through”, lets the adviser link to fund analysis or portfolio modelling tools, with suitable integration to pick funds in the Cofunds universe. These can then be placed in a basket which, once the client is happy with it, is directed to the Cofunds microsite.
Clients can choose to buy funds within either an Isa or general investment account. If the adviser firm has a branded microsite, clients will be directed to this; if not, they will be directed to Cofunds’ site.
A client who is an existing Cofunds customer can log in to the microsite and the data will be pre-populated to the trade tab. Clients who are not existing customers can purchase the funds and then complete the registration.
Cofunds does not charge extra for setting up or maintaining the Fund Pass Through version. Adviser firms can use either in-house technology or a third party to pass the fund data to Cofunds.
So far, this service has been rolled out to four adviser firms. Two used Funds Library, the others used a third party or in-house developer. Funds Library, the third party or the equivalent will have a commercial arrangement with the adviser firm.
While Cofunds has done a great job in delivering these services to advisers, one area I wish it would address is embracing a wider range of browsers and making the site fully “responsive”. This is the tech industry term for having a website that identifies the type of device and browser that are being used to access it – for example, which type of smartphone, tablet or computer – and optimises the content delivery accordingly.
We live in a multi-device, multi-browser world and all financial firms need to learn that a policy of delivering to just a couple of browsers is no longer fit for purpose.
My next column will explore even more functional options that Cofunds offers to enable advisers to deliver information on clients’ other investments side by side with their Cofunds holdings and how they can integrate with advisers’ own online presences.
My colleague Adam Higgs has written more detailed analyses of these offerings. They can be found on his blog on our website at www.ftrc.co/blog/adam-higgs/
Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre