This year has seen huge change in all areas of society. In music we lost too many of the people who shaped our lives. In politics, Brexit, Trump and the Italian referendum herald changes that would have been inconceivable 12 months ago.
While not on the same scale, this has also been a year of significant change for industry technology. As my last column of 2016, I want to sum up what I see as the most significant developments in various sectors.
In the investment space, the highlight of the year was the launch of Intelliflo’s automated advice service. It provides the one-in-four UK IFAs that use its software with a zero cost route into this growing sector. To date, 153 have signed up.
I understand Cofunds will be joined by a number of other platform providers on the service in 2017. Any platform that does not currently have a place in this queue should move quickly to secure one. I cannot see there being room to include each and every one, and the inability to support such a key group of advisers as those using Intelliflo could limit growth opportunities.
The service builds on the value Intelliflo delivered to advisers last year with the introduction of its enhanced client portal service. This is now being used by some 700 firms to build digital relationships with clients.
Another highlight comes from Lighthouse recognising that the technology it uses to ensure suitability is more important than any asset manager. The importance of this move will probably be lost on most asset managers but it raises serious questions over the long term future for 90 per cent of such firms.
This year’s most significant development in the mortgage space is the enhanced affordability capability Iress has added to its Xplan Mortgage service. The ability to clearly indicate to customers the likely acceptance of a range of different mortgage products is a real benefit.
Those lenders not participating should be moving to do so quickly. If all other elements of a loan proposition are equal, those that can offer greater certainty over acceptance must be a no-brainer. Indeed, customers wanting to secure the home they want as soon as possible may feel that added certainty is more important than a few basis points on the rate.
In the protection world, this year’s highlight does not actually come in the form of a new service but the critical mass iPipeline is achieving for its Solution Builder product.
Hardly a month goes by without it announcing another scale distribution partnership and, having been given some insight to its development roadmap, the next features being considered will only reinforce this further.
Its XRAE product may not be the most streamlined solution in the “buy now” area but iPipeline consistently stands out from the competition, thanks to its understanding of the depth of integration necessary with other systems advisers use. It is increasingly looking like the long-term winner in this crucial space.
I would also like to commend Royal London and Aviva for their new digital trust services. This is an initiative their peers would do well to emulate.
No summary of the year in technology would be complete without mention of the pensions dashboard project. This has come on in leaps and bounds in recent months and now has the potential to deliver enormous benefits to both consumers and advisers.
There are some segments of the industry, particularly individual investment platforms, that do not yet recognise the full impact a dashboard will have.
Delivering the details of all a consumer’s pensions and, ultimately, other savings seamlessly into a single interface will become the new normal. That this will be free of charge should significantly grow consumer engagement.
It is great to see so many pension providers getting involved with the project. A key question advice firms should now be asking is: where will I get my dashboard from?
While this has been a terrible year for the wider society, it has been a great one for industry technology. 2017 will be even better.
Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre