“The cheque is in the post.”
“Of course I love you.”
“Hi, I’m from compliance and I’m here to help you.”
These are some of the greatest lies in the world and now a new one has been added to the list: “We are re-platforming to provide you with a better service.”
When the first platform providers came to market, it seemed to us they were using advisers to test whether their offerings actually worked.
We were used to dealing with variable service from conventional product providers.
But we could see platforms were likely to be the way forward. We could present our clients with a consistent experience of buying, managing and selling funds online, and the automation could remove the variability of service we faced. Conventional providers started to look like they might go the way of the dinosaur.
There followed a bit of a honeymoon period. We received a better service and began to see how we might align our service delivery to clients to that the platform provider gave to us.
We encouraged our clients to create their pins and passwords in order to see what was happening with their money. To some extent, advisers also started to take on a role similar to manufacturers, in that we could apply our investment proposition by selecting the funds we wanted from the whole of the market on the platform.
We could regularly rebalance portfolios and manage the investment of new money and the withdrawal of benefits quickly and effectively. Things seemed to have changed for the better.
However, the technology that worked so well just a decade earlier started to get clunky, and platforms decided they needed to upgrade.
If you want to strike fear into the heart of an adviser, simply tell them their platform of choice is going to be upgraded. It is almost a given that things are going to go wrong.
I do wonder whether platforms do much in the way of research about their customer needs ahead of making these changes. Do they talk to advisers about the experience they want? Do they consider for one moment what the experience will be like for the client whose money it is?
Recent experience has shown us how re-platforming can mean a real deterioration in the service provided. I cannot remember a time when my admin and technical teams have been given such a runaround by providers. What was simple before has become unwieldy and almost unworkable.
Some clients have had their Isa and GIA investments moved to an updated platform with their pension plans remaining on the old system. Being able to easily identify what those clients have paid in charges is a thing of the past.
All in all, I do not think there is one re-platforming experience where I could say that we and the client are better off as a result. Platform providers are beginning to look more and more like the insurance companies of the past – unwieldy and slow. How sad is that?
Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice