Many firms have successfully implemented a platform solution into their business but the FCA’s thematic review paper issued at the start of this year provides more food for thought. As such, now is a good time for advisers to take a fresh look at their arrangements. Undertaking adequate due diligence and research is of most importance when making decisions about platforms, particularly in light of continuing regulatory scrutiny.
The first step is to conduct a high level analysis of what is currently available in the market. Initially, firms need to satisfy themselves on three key issues:
- Scale: Does the platform operator have the scale and resources (both financial and technical) to be a long-term player?
- Support: Can they provide the support needed during the critical transitional and implementation period?
- Functionality: Do they provide the range of tools and functionality required to help the adviser deliver their enhanced service proposition?
These are key considerations. Without the scale and resources to be a long-term player one would have to question the future availability of the platform and therefore the support given to those clients who use it.
The support given during the transitional period is also crucial. If an adviser is moving to a new business model based more around client service and ongoing support, then they need to ensure this transition is made as smoothly as possible. Some platform operators offer support transferring clients onto the platform, perhaps by re-registering or reviewing existing investments.
Meanwhile, given the complexity of some of the asset allocation and investment tools included on platforms, the range needed to embed into the firm’s business model will depend entirely on the advice process. It is of prime importance to have a clear understanding of what support and functionality is required and then consider the platforms that offer it. Only by doing this can the platform be fully integrated into your process, thereby giving access to the true cost savings they offer.
The box above examines the 10 must-ask questions when it comes to this process. Selecting the right solution is complex. Just as an adviser would research the market before recommending a product or fund to a client the same should be done here. This is a key decision and getting it right first time is essential to avoiding subsequent changes and disruptions.
Any decisions on using platforms must be led by the advisory business itself, taking account of how the business operates and its client base. Only by starting from this point will advisory firms find the best solution for their clients and their business, and therefore be in a position to make the most of the opportunities presented to them. The right solution has the potential to help deliver an enhanced level of service to clients, transforming the business and its capital value.
Geoff Mills is director at RSMR