The Zurich platform was soft-launched to a selection of adviser firms in September 2012 before being rolled out to the wider market later that year. This makes it the newest (and potentially one of the last) ‘provider-led’ adviser platforms to launch.
As well as servicing advisers, Zurich is also one of the few groups to have a proposition in the workplace savings arena with its Money4Life platform.
Given its relative infancy, advisers are still finding their feet with the Zurich platform and our feedback from users suggests they are in the early phases of rolling the platform out across their businesses.
We have learnt that the foundations of a good platform solution are in place – for example, the links between Dynamic Planner and the platform – but also that some fine-tuning might be required as adviser needs develop.
We had the opportunity to look under the bonnet of the Zurich system at the start of the year and the FNZ-powered platform is impressive, particularly on integration with back-office providers and planning tools providers.
Interesting developments include the release of further details on the tie-up with Square Mile Investment Consulting & Research for the Zurich Collection– a narrow range of 50 funds and three exchange traded funds that best target either capital growth, income, capital preser-vation and inflation protection.
The Zurich Group does not contain a fund manager, so both the Zurich Collection and the partnership with Threadneedle offering the Zurich Horizon Investment Solutions range of risk-profiled funds allow them to be active in this space.
With 93 per cent of the total £8.43bn book in pensions (as at 31 March), the dominance of workplace savings is clear and we estimate £1bn-£1.5bn attributable to adviser retail business.
So, it is early days. The challenge is to differentiate the platform from its life company competitors and to carve out a niche in the crowded market. We would expect the platform to lean on some of its USPs such as two-way integration between platform and back office providers and the distribution of protection alongside investments.
Freddie Findlater is The Platforum head of adviser platforms
Pat’s Take on Price
Zurich has recently reduced the first tier on their pricing structure from 0.45 per cent to 0.35 per cent, making the platform more competitive across the board, and particularly so for smaller accounts. Though it is waived in 2014, the flat £75 annual pension charge will hit smaller portfolios hardest. There are no additional charges for drawdown.
Little & Georgiou partner Richard Little:
The recent reduction in charges is good news where we are looking to consolidate assets onto platform for clients with smaller investments held directly. We like that we can access reports when we are in the client portfolio. We also get excellent support from our local representative. One thing we would like is family linking on all portfolios. Currently it is only available over £200,000.
Advice Network practice principal Ramon Puig:
Our clients like that they recognise the brand – not always the case with smaller wraps. Once you get used to it the usability is very good and some clients log in regularly. We never have to chase their support team for anything and the support from our local rep is excellent. There are features other platforms have that Zurich does not but for 99 per cent of investments it has everything necessary.