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Seeing the potential

Moving 1,800 users of a critical software system at the same time is a gargantuan task. This is what True Potential achieved for Positive Solutions over the Christmas period.

I appreciate why for business reasons it had to be done this way but when I first heard that the switch was to be carried out as a single exercise, my reaction was, “you must be mad”.

Normally, an exercise like this would involve a small number of test users, say 25, migrating to the system.

This might then be followed by a bigger group, with further tranches of users being migrated over a period, normally of several weeks, if not months.

To True Potential’s consid-erable credit, the move was successfully carried out, although not without the odd teething problem along the way and at least one false start.

I understand the whole exercise took about 36 hours, although a lot longer had been allowed.

As far as I am aware, this is the biggest-ever migration of a full financial advice system in a single event.

It is true to say that, at the time of the Positive Solutions conference in January, not all the advisers were convinced of the benefits of the change.

In preparing this column, I took the opportunity to speak to a number of Positive Solutions members selected at random via a Google search about their current feelings.

A couple were scathing, bordering on vituperative, in their criticism, but the majority view seemed to be that things have got a great deal better in recent months and a couple of members were effusive about the new system.

One consistent view from most of those I spoke to was confidence that True Potential would get things right in the long run and that the change would ultimately be worth it.

One of the main changes following the launch of True Potential is that the software used by Positive Solutions is no longer exclusively available to its members.

Having also made contact with a number of non-Positive Solutions members who have adopted the software to gauge their views, these organisations interestingly all gave very positive feedback.

This suggests to me that any adviser looking for a new system should seriously consider this option.

If anything is going to encourage advisers to adopt client management systems this year, it has to be meeting treating customers fairly obligations.

This is, without doubt, one of the biggest challenges facing advisers today.

As the regulator has employed an additional 200 monitoring staff to support this scheme, it is a case of when, rather than if, directly authorised firms will get a visit or be subject to phone enquiries to investigate how they are putting TCF into practice.

As I have commented before in this column, advisers do not have to use a client management system to administer their TCF processes but it is going to be a whole lot harder if they do not.

It is therefore understandable that True Potential has built powerful tools as part of its service to enable advisers to build and maintain their TCF processes.

This is a logical step, given the FSA requirements that TCF be embedded within the culture of regulated firms.

Implementing TCF is not just about running systems. There is a need to have detailed processes to measure activity and act on it. The process needs to be iterative.

By using the software to extract data from the normal adviser workflows, the system builds a series of reports to populate a TCF scorecard. This uses traffic lights to measure the quality of outcomes in order to monitor the activity within the business.

Embedding these TCF measures within the advice process will enable firms to measure their ongoing performance against TCF measures on a day to day basis.

In addition to the range of prepopulated reports, advisers can use the system to monitor any processes they operate, thus enabling them to create bespoke TCF reporting wherever it is needed. This, in turn, enables the adviser to create their TCF action plan, clearly document the action they intend to take and measure this periodically to identify its efficacy.

This system appears to be a classic example of the symbiotic relationship between regulation and technology.

Technology makes it possible to regulate activities to a level of detail that would be impossible without the technology.

Embedding a system like this at the heart of advisers’ processes ought to help any adviser sleep far more soundly at night.

Research carried out by True Potential last year identified that 45 per cent of adviser firms do not have a dedicated client management system.

Having seen this software, I have to conclude that those firms are making their TCF processes far more difficult than they need be.

For those wanting to take action to address this, I understand that True Potential typically gets new users live using its system within six weeks of signing a contract.

Its new customer process includes working with dedicated contacts within its implementation team as well as a four-day induction course in Newcastle for super-users who, in turn, train other users of the system.

In addition, when the adviser firm goes live, the implementation team are on site for a minimum of two days.

Additional processes are in place to walk advisers through the registration processes for services such as online valuations.

There is also a dedicated process for extracting data from other systems that adviser firms have used previously.

Like any system, it can only work on the information available so building up a historic record will depend largely on what information can be captured from previous systems or via links with insurers.

All the training and implementation support are included within the normal rate the adviser pays.

No payment is taken by True Potential until the system goes live and payments are only taken once an adviser is being paid via the system.

When it comes to cost, True Potential is coy about stating any figures, insisting that everything is by negotiation but that this is based on a very low singlefigure percentage of the payments processed by the system.

Given the track record of those involved in delivering market-leading technology, I share the confidence of those users who are confident about the long-term prognosis for this package.

I will continue to watch developments with interest.

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