One of the most important decisions for any IFA is who they should be
using to build their internet presence. In reaching such a decision, it is
essential in my view that they opt for a supplier that has considerable
experience in the financial services industry.
I have come across many situations in the past where advisers have been
paying not only for their web designers to build their sites but also in
effect, for the web designers to learn about the financial services
As we all know only too well, few other industries suffer the extent of
regulation that is imposed on our market and getting the message across to
design companies which may be well versed in technology but blissfully
ignorant of the finer points of compliance can be painful and expensive.
For some time, there has been a wide range of organisations prepared to
offer free or very low cost web design solutions for IFAs.
Assureweb's IFA Window service has attracted 2,400 firms to set up free
websites.A significant number have opted to pay additional fees for one of
the tariffed Window sites. Exchange also has its AdviserWeb Builder service
which offers template-based solutions. Each of these offers tools for
There are other firms such as Screenpages and CMG which, for firms with
bigger budgets, will use their extensive experience to build quality
bespoke web solutions.
Last week, I had the chance to try out a new product that seems to offer a
middle ground between the very low cost template-driven solutions and the
highly bespoke solutions.
Synaptic Systems has long been one of the organisations I have most
enjoyed working with as it consistently comes up with solutions which
reflect a clear understanding of the ways in which an IFA operates. Its new
web design service is no exception. Launching at an initial price of
Â£149 a month excluding VAT. this will rise to Â£200 in a year or
two once a range of features are added.
The service is built around an intuitive set of tools that allow the
adviser to produce a customised website using their own choice of colour
scheme, corporate logos, details of individual advisers, branch structures,
etc. I have seen other packages that enable IFAs to take control of much of
their content but never anything which allows control to this degree and
for this price.
It is simple to use. A series of coloured light bulb shapes down the
left-hand side of the screen indicate which areas have been completed by
the adviser and which remain to be attended to. In many cases sample text
is included but this can be amended to meet the IFAs' requirements.
The list of options that can be included in the home page alone are too
many to list in full here. Business news, money news, general news and a
news ticker are all on offer. Details of advisers, branches, callback and
contact us buttons, a jargon-buster, logon screen and why register sections
are just a few of the options that can be linked from the home page.
It is not only the adviser who has the control as individual clients are
also allowed to customise what appears on the home page as they view it
each time they log on, based on their own personal preferences.
The area that impresses me most is the range of calculators, guides,
decision aids, decision trees, comparative quotation services and product
research. These cover pensions, mortgages, life and health investments and
an offshore module.
If, having found a comparative table or looked at the product research, a
client wants to proceed with a contract or get further advice, the system
makes it easy for them to notify the adviser of this by email or request a
The research tool is a stripped-down version of Synaptic's full Product
Research Professional software which produces tables of features but no
ranking. The aim is to encourage clients to come on to the site for ranking
purposes. This is all about giving people information to make them want to
seek more financial advice and must be applauded.
What this solution does sadly lack is the ability to integrate a fund
supermarket. Apparently, Synaptic had been intending to incorporate the
Cofunds platform from launch.
The lack of a fund supermarket aside, this is by far the best IFA web
design service I have seen for this price. It is rather more expensive than
some other options but I believe it is important that IFAs recognise that
you get what you pay for.
If you are only looking for a poster-type site, you probably will not go
for this option unless you are prepared to pay considerably more than you
need or are looking to take advantage of the highly customisable nature of
the colour schemes and other information that can be included.
If an adviser wants to build in a range of powerful interactive tools,
including term comparative quotations now with stakeholder and investment
bond comparisons to follow in the next six weeks, plus product research
designed to generate additional business for you, this must be an option to
consider. Ideally, I would have liked to have seen the ability to transact
new business electronically as well as get the quotations but even without
this, the service is a leap forward.
Synaptic has made an excellent start with this tool but it is operating in
a highly competitive market. No doubt, it will not be too long before other
high-quality web design services will be available for IFAs. I believe this
service sets the benchmark they should be judged against.
Ian McKenna is a consultant and director of the Financial Technology
Research Centre which works for a wide range of industry organisations,
life offices and technology companies, including Microsoft, Assuresoft and
He can be contacted by email at email@example.com
Tel: 020 7935-2599
Fax: 020 7935-2995