Within 24 hours of writing my column two weeks ago about how IFAs can prepare to compete with mighty infomediaries like Google, I saw a shining example of what can be achieved.
I have been aware of All My Plans’ intentions to launch a range of services to help advisers provide a consumerfacing online presence for
about a year but even so, and as someone not normally surprised by technology, I was shocked by how far the plan has progressed. Some of what was demonstrated to me is still under embargo but, based on what is currently available, the service should be on the short list for any firm looking to develop its web presence.
All My Plans is an online aggregation service that allows clients to see the values of potentially all their investments and other financial products in a single package. It can be powered by real-time information from a range of life offices and other data sources, significantly
reducing the amount of effort required by the client or adviser to set up the service.
More than 25 product providers’ plans can be represented on the system at present, and I understand the facility will be extended to integrate with a range of wrap providers in the near future.
A simple sign-up process allows customers to authorise for their information to be assembled within the service and to transfer the servicing
rights for such contracts. There is a direct-to-consumer offering that can provide these rights to AMP but the service is designed primarily to operate with adviser firms that would retain the agency arrangements but outsource the administration of the web operation.
A set of financial planning tools enables customers to gain better insight into their financial affairs. The real power of the system, however, is in the way it can generate leads for advisers and identify further sales opportunities.
With the consumer’s consent, advisers have a view of the client information shared on the service. This is achieved via a partners section where the client can give access to chosen third-parties, such as their adviser, accountant or solicitor.
The IFA would currently have to review any information entered manually. However, in time, automated management information and updates will be supplied to the advisereffectively a very powerful lead-generation function. When a client shows an asset not controlled by the adviser
the system can automatically generate a letter of authority, although the client does not have to switch servicing rights if they do not wish to.
Encouraging clients to use AMP could be a great way of identifying where they have additional assets not under the adviser’s control. The service includes a range of advice requests clients can complete to ask for extra services. For specialist firms, if the service generates enquiries for advice in an area outside their specialism, they can arrange for these to be referred to another IFA but with a guarantee that the second adviser will not offer services in an area in which the primary adviser operates. Revenue is shared between the two firms.
All My Plans allows advisers to outsource online client engagement in order to concentrate on what they are good at – managing client relationships
For example, a specialist protection adviser may prefer to have pension enquiries fielded by another firm that undertakes not to offer protection advice, rather than risk the client getting pension advice elsewhere and an unconnected pension adviser pitching to review the protection plans.
This service allows advisers to outsource online client engagement and data management in order to concentrate on what they are good at – managing client relationships.
Offering such a service is obviously a great way of demonstrating an ongoing commitment to treating customers fairly. Not only does it allow clients to see the exact value of their investment but they can also model future growth and predict the impact of any changes in asset values.
It will be interesting to watch how AMP interacts with established clientmanagement systems suppliers. I certainly hope they will find ways of sharing information with such systems so as to avoid any duplication of effort.
It is worth noting the pedigree of the team that is delivering All My Plans. Run by Paul Holland, the man responsible for building Webline from scratch into a serious player in the portal market without any significant funding from the provider community, the team has a track record of delivering what it says it will, on time and within budget. And there are not many technology organisations you can say that about.
Half an hour looking around allmyplans.com should be time well spent by any IFA thinking about how to take its consumer-facing web proposition forward. Embracing online communications should be about opening new and streamlined ways of communicating with clients to compliment an adviser’s historic offerings.
In reality, small IFAs cannot hope to have the time or financial resources to build these services themselves, so partnering with specialists with a proven track record should be the natural way of developing the quality of the proposition – essential if it is to stand out from the crowd.
By using facilities such as this, adviser businesses can prepare for increased competition from new media aggregators and distributors, take valuable steps in adopting more RDR-friendly working practices and, most of all, improve the quality of service being offered to the clients.
Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre