There are dangers in letting technology dictate and define what you deliver to clients. Slavish adoption of an imposed operating model can make you lose touch with who you are and what the client really wants and values.
Ceding control of your business to an old model life company, a wrap provider that is little more than a software house or an investment house with aspirations to control distribution is short-sighted. There has been a terrible tendency towards short-termism in the adviser industry and selling out for a quick fix is likely to leave an adviser feeling short-changed.
We were careful to ensure that our use of a platform was firmly on our terms, as we believe nature intended. We wanted an investment engine that can reliably deliver the advice that we provide to our clients. For us, everything is about the client and if the platform did not allow us to add value (and value that we could justifiably charge for), then adoption was pointless. We worry about platforms that simply take a percentage for not delivering much more than that which a knowledgeable adviser with scale and a well sorted back office could do for themselves.
The transition from a traditional advisory model to a retail distribution review-ready one has been a huge challenge. We spent a lot of time following a path that was eventually blocked by the credit crunch. Nevertheless, on a journey such as this, you must expect detours, derailments and delays.
With plan A postponed due to cost, we revisited our criteria for a partner – and I stress that word – and the dialogue we had with a number of parties over the course of a considerable period of time. We found that there were a number of pragmatic fixes available to us. We knew who offered the functionality we required and who had scale and a sustainable model. Most of all, we knew who shared our “can do” attitude.
Skandia has to date been excellent at understanding our vision and matching its offering to our needs. Its willingness to become immersed in the culture that drives us towards delivering excellence to clients is refreshing and most un-life-company-like. It has added funds to the platform to support our model portfolios and engaged in hands-on training with our staff. Where we have identified issues with functionality, they have been quick to respond and sort out any problems.
Neither of us is the finished article yet but the journey towards client-driven perfection is proving fun so far and I don’t think that either party has any qualms about working together for some time to come.
Ian Porter is proposition director at Alexander Forbes Wealth Management