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Ian McKenna: Sound System – how CMS can service low cost clients

Advisers are becoming increasingly focused on how they will deliver propositions to clients after the RDR.

Most firms will only have a limited number of wealthy clients whose adviser charges can cover the cost of face-to-face advice on a regular basis.

One of the main challenges is how to provide services at a price the client can afford and is happy to pay, that also deliver adequate revenue to the adviser firm to cover the cost of the service.

An increasing number of wraps and platforms are delivering technology as part of their support for such situations but so far the majority of such organisations have limited capability on including individual life and pension products not on a platform.

An alternative approach is for advisers to extract data from their own client management system and use this to populate a holistic view of the client’s assets via a web portal integration to their own website.

JCS may not be one of the best-known IFA software suppliers, indeed, until it was taken over by its present management about five years ago, I used to refer to it as the best kept secret in the IFA software market.

What it may lack in profile it more than makes up for with a fiercely loyal user base that includes some very well run regional IFA practices, which speaks volumes about the quality of service they deliver.

To help firms in structuring new propositions the company is offering its users the opportunity to sign up to a joint venture arrangement with IFA Systems, the specialist adviser website service, at a fixed price of £50 a month which is guaranteed never to increase as long as the adviser firm remains a JCS user.

This deal applies to all contracts signed before March 31. Under the arrangement, the adviser can choose to give clients access to their online portfolio, with or without their fact-find.

Using the JCS system, advisers can also create a series of pre-formatted reports, which can be created using information contained within the system’s database to provide regular client reporting and calls to action.

While initially designed to be created as paper reports, they can as easily be structured as emails or other digital content. If information is created electronically, it will be important for the adviser to ensure suitable data security mechanisms are in place, either for the client to download the data securely from the adviser’s site or for any emails containing confidential client information to be delivered in an encrypted format.

The frequency with which data is uploaded to the website is controlled by the adviser firm and before refreshing this information, users can update all a client’s contract valuations using both Origo Contract Enquiry messages and/or price feeds from Finstat or Financial Express.

The service can also use various bulk data downloads that are available from life offices. At present, JCS does not have any platform integrations live for such valuations although I gather that two are in development.

As part of the process, the adviser can either look at the same information as provided to the client or a more detailed summary providing this client information and other data from the JCS system.

I think this arrangement is well placed to support a remote advice relationship where adviser and client are viewing the web service online while having a phone call to conduct the sort of review that might previously have been discussed face to face.

As well as clients being able to access their portfolio online, the adviser can give the client access to their fact-find to edit and update. If a client makes a change to the online fact-find, details of the altered information are emailed to the adviser securely to act upon.
As part of the initial set-up process the adviser is prompted to ensure they have the client’s email address, which is used to send initial log-in details and prompt the user to set their own choice of password.

Within the system, the adviser also has access to a personal question which the client selects and can provide the information to the adviser to instigate a password reset if this should be necessary.

I was impressed by the range of fields which can be edited by the client, which includes not just personal information but also gives them the ability to add information about existing policies, investments and other assets.

The system could potentially be used to allow new clients to complete at least part of their fact-find online before an initial meeting. I appreciate that such an approach may seem alien to some IFAs but such an approach may be necessary to keep costs down for clients with limited means.

JCS was at pains during the demonstration to point out that its own internal fact-find extends to a far greater level of detail than the one available using the fact-find system and even allows advisers to set up to 200 of their own entirely configurable fields.

The company also offers a full tax planning report within its system, which may also appeal to firms wanting to form specialist links with accountancy practices.

As it becomes increasingly clear that technology will be crucial in helping adviser firms develop their low-cost client propositions, it is encouraging to see firms such as JCS putting together equally low-cost solutions to help advisers.

Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre

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