Powering the platforms: Why Transact prefers in-house technology

Seath-Miranda

To use chief development officer Jonathan Gunby’s terminology, Transact is a “compulsive
insourcer”. It runs its own life companies, nominee and custodian and has also designed its own end-to-end system. This comprises the main administration system Transact online and an illustration system.

The Australian technology company behind the development of these systems, Integrated Applications Development Limited, was acquired by Transact’s holding company, Integrated Holdings Limited, at the end of June.

But the respective teams have always been highly integrated. IAD does not have any other clients and, although based in Australia, it is in constant close contact with Transact. Several of Transact’s systems team get into the London office at 6am to link up with counterparts on the other side of the world, meaning systems are worked on around the clock.

Some see proprietary technology as a money pit that eats up cash because the costs of  development are not spread among multiple users. But Transact is adamant it runs its technology cost-effectively.

Indeed, the platform is consistently profitable and we do not see that the team, with its focus on process and economy, would over-extend itself on technology costs. Clearly, it is able to keep costs in this area keen. Releases are monthly, meaning it is continuously upgraded. This removes the need for it to replatform.

Most of Transact’s updates result from adviser requests for details or features that will make lives for them and their clients easier. The platform argues that proprietary technology allows it to be more responsive in this respect.

The first step in building any new feature is to design the operational process. Input is gathered from the team of developers on how the process should be adjusted to ensure it is going to work optimally on the system and Transact then builds it. The platform is a fan of soft launching new features to advisers in order to improve right up until launch.

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Recently, it has been working on its investor authorisation process. Acting on feedback, it now groups the recommendation from the adviser together with the execution of the trade so the trade is teed up.

The client is then alerted to the recommendation and can log in to Transact’s system to authorise the trade (or not), instructing it instantly at the click of a button. Advisers are able to check on the progress of trade authorisations and nudge clients. They can also time limit the trade to ensure relevance. A week is standard but it is possible to adjust this. Transact initially soft-launched investor authorisation to around 20 advisory firms and has now rolled it out to everyone.

Given the high level of regulatory and policy change, agility is important. Transact has weekly reviews to assess how work is progressing and a pipeline of developments in place. That said,
if there is a need for a swift response to policy development then it can quickly reprioritise.

The platform’s approach to upgrading its technology is one of continuous improvement rather than “big bang”. This is reflective of a culture where attention to detail is paramount. And Transact users consistently reference this culture when we speak to them.

At our Platforum Perspectives event in January, head of direct Jeremy Fawcett talked about “the tweaker”: a reference from Malcolm Gladwell’s biography of Steve Jobs. To paraphrase Gladwell, our view is that the ability to push and pull technology toward some “more nearly perfect solution” will be critical in a sector that has matured and where there is limited scope for true disruption.

Transact’s ability to refine its technology quickly and continuously makes it well placed to help advisers respond to some of the changes on the horizon post-Brexit.

Miranda Seath is senior researcher at Platforum