The role of the adviser has not really changed over the past 25 years. We build confidence and a picture of needs and wants, risk appetite and priorities, and we construct solutions tailored for each client.
To this end, most clients have a combination of existing policies, some still pre-RDR, and others on shiny new platforms. At certain points, we need to secure up-to-date valuations of these.
Product providers and fund managers seem to be in two camps about the way they facilitate this transparently and efficiently.
Some like Parmenion, Aviva and Old Mutual provide portals with real-time reports which can be run individually or across all agencies. Our back-office system Intelligent Office also integrates with Unipass, for those dozen or so providers locked into the open architecture and transparency this provides.
But then we have those that simply do not want to engage with the adviser responsible for servicing the client they are managing assets on behalf of and charging healthy margins for the privilege.
We are told to send a fax or a letter, or to get on the phone and wait our turn. The hours administrators in our high-tech world spend on the phone waiting to speak to someone on this beggars belief.
I do wonder whether some providers are deliberately impeding our simple requests?
Perhaps it is a recurring suspicion that if we are seeking valuations we are considering advice to move assets elsewhere. The more difficult they make it, the more likely we are to give up and move on?
This challenge is exacerbated by the issues with legacy systems and historical consolidation in the provider market. Fine, sometimes online real-time may well be beyond practical but my point is not just about the technology, it is about the attitude and transparency. Providers know we need to access up-to-date valuations but are unwilling to invest in a robust alternative to the telephone.
We all have agency agreements with providers and fund managers which include their responsibility to deliver basic up-to-date information upon request.
Many need to re-think their long-term business models. If providing such basic information is so difficult, how can they expect us to allow them to run our clients’ money in an efficient way?
Nick Kelly is chief executive officer and founder of Alexander House