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Sprint to the finish

To state that a software product “gives the power back to the adviser” is a bold claim. But at a time when platforms and centralised investment propositions are increasingly involved in the management of client portfolios, Sprint Enterprise Technology has devoted the past few years trying to achieve exactly that.

Fastrak, Sprint’s cloud-based service for building and reviewing investment portfolios, aims to reduce the time advisers have to spend on reviewing and rebalancing portfolios so they can give more attention to clients.

What the service does, in a nutshell, is take investment data from platforms and advisers’ back-office systems, consolidate it and manage it so that advisers can obtain all the information they need via a single point of access.

Sprint chief executive Christopher Willmott says: “Over the last three years we have been working with platforms and back offices to access information, aiming to consolidate that into one front end for the adviser. Advisers can answer questions around client portfolios on the spot because they have everything at their fingertips, which helps them to justify ongoing fees.”

Fastrak originated from a system of Excel spreadsheets that Sprint non-executive chairman and McLaren Capital managing director Rory St Johnston had developed to run his IFA business. He passed the concept on to a technology specialist, who in 2008 built a prototype system around it. In 2010, Sprint Enterprise Technology was established to bring the concept to the wider market.

Behind the scenes, information from some 13 platforms is being constantly fed into Fastrak’s data warehouse, where it is consolidated. The result is that when advisers log in to Fastrak, they do not need to re-key client information.

“We have a controlled dashboard in our office that is reconciling the data flow and we can see how advisers are using the data, so we can assist them with it,” says Willmott.

Over 50 advice firms are signed up with Fastrak and Willmott says it is taking on new clients every week.  “The advisers tend to be forward thinkers, so they always come back with ideas on how we can develop new capabilities.” he says.

Although the system is currently able to give advisers access to platforms with different systems and capabilities, Willmott says there is more scope to consolidate the various systems that advisers use.

“I think that in time – and it will take a long time – there is a real opportunity to address the fragmentation of systems on the adviser’s desk and consolidate various technologies into one front end. Having that would be fantastic, but we are not there yet,” he says.

Fastrak is aimed at all types of advisers whether they outsource their investment management or do it themselves. “They all have the same problem, which is how to save time,” says Willmott.

But the ‘sweet spot’ for Fastrak is advisers who run their own model portfolios, as Fastrak can provide automated authorisation from clients to go ahead with portfolio changes to rebalance them back in line with the model. 

When advisers need to rebalance portfolios, Fastrak automatically consolidates all the relevant material such as key information documents, factsheets and the rationale for the portfolio changes.

“All our developers, except one, have come from outside the financial services industry, so they look at life in a different way and are working with platforms to make sure the data is good and robust. Having that data experience has been fundamental to what we are delivering,” says Willmott.

Inevitably, all that expertise comes at a cost to the adviser – and it isn’t cheap. But Willmott says Sprint is trying to keep prices down as far as possible so that advisers can deliver maximum profit.

Advisers can expect to pay upwards of £150 a month for Fastrak, depending on the size of the firm and the functionality required. Willmott says:  “The costs are £150 a month for a one-man band. For firms who need more functionality it is £300 a month and for bigger clients with 30, 40, 50 advisers and the full function review, portfolio and performance reports, all that is around £4,000 a month. There are different scales for big nationals and networks.”

Fastrak takes six to eight weeks to set up and requires advisers to have a licence with FE, as it uses data from FE Analytics. Along with Transact, FE is a strategic investor in Sprint Enterprise Technology.

Willmott says: “Our advisers are saying that by using Fastrak they would expect to save nearly 20 hours a week in reviewing portfolios – about 18.4 hours on average. It enables advisers to put in place a consistent process that is really robust, so that by saving time they are not cutting corners.”

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