We started using the Standard Life platform in January 2007. I previously worked for another firm where we tried out several different platforms over a period of years and had a particularly bad admin experience with one. This platform told us that it had straight-through processing but in reality it was still people keying in all the information.
With some of the others, we were concerned about how long they would be staying in the market. We chose Standard Life because it fitted what we were trying to achieve with our business. We wanted to work with a platform provider that was well capitalised and had the financial capability to keep investing in the proposition.
The technology was also important. Standard Life brought in FNZ, which was a specialist in New Zealand and Australia and had been working with wraps for a number of years. I do not view Standard Life so much as a life office any more but more an administrator of assets, so I was not worried about the contact it would have with our clients.
It acknowledges that clients are the adviser’s and not the firm’s. We would not tolerate any direct marketing and Standard understands this. Standard treats the relationship with advisers as a partnership.
Financial planning is the core of our client proposition. This is backed up with a stringent invest-ment process and use of technology. The financial planning process we go through is first to under-stand a client’s goals and objectives and then work out what rate of return on investments they need to meet these aspirations.
We have constructed risk-graded portfolios using passively managed institutional asset class funds. As these are only available via a platform, we are selective who we deal with and whom we place on to our wrap. We are conscious of the costs of wraps and the investment amount has to be right – generally £100,000 upwards.
In terms of the cost of using the platform, the cost of our portfolios plus the wrap admin normally works out at between 0.65 to 0.85 per cent ignoring any large fund discounts but as Standard has grown its funds on the platform, it has tried to bring the cost down and it is bringing in some reductions in April.
Like everyone, from time to time, Standard has had the odd admin problem. It has excellent support staff and has worked through any issues with us in a timely manner. Overall, the service has been excellent and when we have suggestions or queries, generally someone responds the same day.
In the future, we would like to see the platform develop to allow us to do more complicated transactions online like, for example, with income drawdown to set up income payments and payments of tax-free cash. Richard Johnston is managing director of DJH Financial Solutions