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The order of things

During the last decade, we have undoubtedly seen a greater adoption of internet-based solutions as more and more advisers have switched to viewing and administering their clients’ investments online.

In addition, we have also seen a growth in the number of online tools which allow advisers to view and analyse a client’s overall portfolio and select products on their behalf.

In the last 10 years, we have seen a rise in popularity of fund supermarkets offering access to a wide range of unit trusts and Oeics. Meanwhile, wraps have become increasingly sophisticated and many would argue that only wraps offer a true “client-centric” solution for investment needs.

Yet let’s not forget the role of independent platforms which we believe will have a significant part to play in the future.

At Zurich we are committed to the adviser market and do not believe it is the role of a product provider to attempt to drive the advice and business model of IFAs We firmly believe that advisers and their clients should be able to select the solution that best fits their needs from the entire marketplace.

In an evolving market, it is paramount that advisers select a platform partner with sufficient scale to evolve in line with their own business requirements. Equally important is the ability of the platform to accommodate changing client requirements.

In this challenging economic climate, the role of the adviser is paramount in ensuring consumers are invested wisely. Who is better placed than advisers to give guidance in these turbulent times?

In short, develop your proposition first, then choose your technology solution to deliver it, not the other way round. While we totally support advisers in their use of technology to support the development of their businesses and client propositions, there are potential pitfalls to bear in mind.

It remains paramount that the adviser uses the technology to his or her advantage, ensuring that the role of the adviser does not become extinct.

The majority of advisers have built up their client base over many years and have invested a great deal of time and energy to become trusted advisers to those clients. Client data will always retain an inherent value and the adviser must recognise the need to retain control of this data.

In assessing the range of platforms available, advisers must consider whether they are willing to surrender control of their client data by placing that data on a provider-owned platform.

For the majority of adviser-owned businesses, the key priorities are securing income streams, sourcing of revenue and maintaining cashflow. But advisers should also consider the impact of partnering with platforms on the long-term value of their business and any exit strategy plans.

For advisers looking to sell their business, if they already have relinquished control of their client data to a product- owned wrap, the inherent value of their business is vastly reduced. This is likely to have a knock-on effect on the saleability of their business.

While we anticipate that advisers will look to forge closer relationships with clients in the coming months as the recession continues, increasingly, advisers will turn to technology to help them manage client portfolios effectively. Providers, platform providers and fund managers all have an important role to play in helping equip advisers for the difficult times ahead.

Richard Howells is UK intermediary sales director at Zurich UK Life

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