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Web feat

With all the brouhaha of the dotcom period now a distant memory it is probably a good time for IFAs to review what value operating a website can deliver to themselves and their clients.

It is true that if you have a big enough budget you can build almost anything on a website today but most advisers will want an affordable site that can deliver more than just an electronic poster on the web.

Building your own web presence from scratch can be time-consuming and costly. If you are doing it yourself, you probably need to learn a whole load of new skills or if you contract a firm of specialist web designers, considerable time must be spent with them defining in detail the specification for the site.

Fortunately, there are an increasing number of organisations that have created the basic components necessary for a good IFA website and are offering them to advisers at very reasonable prices.

All of these services allow the adviser to pick from a selection of template designs and customise them to reflect the adviser’s logo, colour scheme, etc. This means that the software developer has carried out the majority of the initial design and build work for the adviser. This can keep down costs and the time taken to launch the site.

Each solution has different strengths and I hope this column will help advisers in selecting which might be the most appropriate for them.

Before you start defining your own requirements, it is worth spending a couple of hours looking at other IFAs’ websites. The best place in my experience to start such a study is to go to the IFA pages at find.co.uk/ifa. It quickly becomes clear that there are a wide range of IFA websites and some are very good while others leave a lot to be desired.

The following suppliers of component-based websites for IFAs are all worth considering.

AdviserNet Web builder from The Exchange was significantly enhanced last year and now offers a range of bolt-on tools, including protection quotes, mortgage quotes,a retirement planner, investment shop featuring Fidelity FundsNetwork and Standard & Poor’s factsheets and an equity-release service. The basic site costs £35, with each of the above options charged at an additional £10 subject to a maximum additional charge of £30.

At the same time, The Exchange made its quotation module available as a stand-alone plug-in for other web sites, including term quotations at a cost of £10 a month.

IFA Systems has a very wide range of template websites including specific sites for fee-based advisers and mortgage advisers.

It also has a range of online services, including comparative life insurance quotes and investment bonds illustrations (both provided by Webline), Fund supermarkets Cofunds and Funds Network, Skandia and Selestia are available, traded endowments (via Tep Exchange), private and business insurance, private medical insurance from a range of providers and mortgage research and sourcing using Network Data’s Mortgage Linked service. The latter is my personal favourite of the online mortgage systems.

Prices vary considerably depending on the services you want, ranging from the most basic site costing £125 to set up and £27 a month,to their fullest e-commerce site at £525 to set up plus£85 a month.

The modular website from Quay software is probably the best option for advisers who are Quay customers and any adviser who does not have a client management system but wants to adopt one that ties in closely with its web presence. This offers particularly tight integration between the client portfolio within its customer care desktop product and its online client portfolio, which clients can log into.

In addition to the online portfolio, clients can now access what-if calculators, identifying suitable levels of cover for death and income or lump sums as a result of critical illness.

A further strength is its professional introducer log-in which allows professional connections not only to provide leads to the adviser but also to monitor the progress of those leads.

Advisers using this service must remember to modify their terms of business and data protection conditions to allow them to provide such information to third parties.

The basic price for a Quay website is £100 a month with an additional £65 a month for the client and introducer log-in tools.

Web Manager from Synaptic is a service that I have always liked. Some excellent examples can be found at ifadirectory.net which lists a number of IFAs who have used the service to build their web presence.

I particularly like the way this enables a client to go through a series of self-help tools and guides but at any stage ask for help from the IFA.

One of my favourite features is the way that this service puts large amounts of information from products in the research section but does so in a way that lists all the features of different contracts so that almost any consumer will go running to their IFA for help in understanding them.

One small problem is that, in my experience, you can have difficulty getting on to this area of the Synaptic service from some computers – as the user has to have session cookies enabled. This is a known issue and is now flagged on the appropriate areas of the site. Provided that you can get it to work I think the feature is excellent. The software normally costs £149 a month but it is presently on offer at a reduced price of £49 a month.

No summary of IFA website tools would be complete without mentioning that Webline’s £10 monthly licence fee includes its client quotation module that can be bolted into other websites.

It is important to recognise that network members will normally need to submit their site to the network compliance function before it becomes operational so it can be worth approaching them early in the process for any guidance points.

You get what you pay for so the more advanced sites carry higher price tags but they should all be far cheaper than either the DIY option – assuming the IFA values their own time – or engaging professional web designers to build a one-off site.

For more information see advisernet.co.uk,ifa-system.co.uk,quaysoftware.co.uk,synaptic.co.uk and webline.co.uk

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