Iress: Lessons from the Avelo acquisition

BadleySimon

An awful lot can change in two years. The Conservatives have won an overall majority in the general election and we have also seen the biggest shake-up to pensions regulation in a generation. Things have certainly not stood still for advisers or, indeed, for Iress. As a business, we are now two years in from our acquisition of Avelo and a lot has happened.

The strength of the acquisition was that it allowed us to take our experience in Australian and South African markets and apply this insight to the UK market. Central to this has been the development of our Xplan platform. We have focused a lot of energy since the acquisition on localising the Xplan solution and building the capabilities to implement it in the most efficient way possible.

The process has not been without its challenges and we have certainly learnt a lot over the past 24 months. For those who want to move to Xplan, we introduced a process to take them across, supported by comprehensive training. Although this has been broadly successful, some clients did experience issues initially. We have continued to invest heavily to address this and make the process as smooth as possible.

I genuinely believe Xplan is able to deliver the same transformational benefits to UK customers as it has done elsewhere in the world. How advisers have reacted globally to regulatory change, such as Future of Financial Advice in Australia, has shown us how important the right technology support can be in making a difference.

From a UK perspective, too, we are seeing regulation drive business change. This is driving a greater need for advice firms of all shapes and sizes to use technology to improve efficiency and deliver a better service at a lower cost. Businesses need a unified solution that supports their end-to-end businesses, not just their back-office or fees and commissions.

We have been working with both existing and new customers to implement Xplan into their businesses but this has not been at the expense of supporting Adviser Office. We know that many advisers are not ready to move to Xplan and, while we have been bringing new solutions to the market from our global product set, we have continued to invest in AO and will keep on doing so for as long as there is demand.

In fact, the most profound change for us over the last two years is moving from being a private equity owned business to a publicly quoted one. We are now able to commit significant investment to all of our products. This means we are able to both maintain and constantly upgrade our software solutions. So, while we have been developing and launching Xplan Mortgage we have also been upgrading AO.

One recent misconception suggested we were less focussed on smaller scale advice firms, which could not be further from the truth. We support businesses of all shapes and sizes, and our investment in our product suite, staff and training processes reflect this.

Looking ahead to the next two years, it is clear our market is set for further change. For example, the Financial Advice Market Review will look at delivering more affordable and accessible advice. Technology, I believe, is the only way this can be achieved.

Advisers, providers, brokers and lenders are continuing to invest in new technology, and we are committed to do the same to match their evolving needs.

Simon Badley is managing director, UK, at Iress