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Light up your website

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&#39s 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

client interactivity.

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

£149 a month excluding VAT. this will rise to £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&#39 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

call back.

The research tool is a stripped-down version of Synaptic&#39s 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

The Exchange.

He can be contacted by email at

Tel: 020 7935-2599

Fax: 020 7935-2995


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