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Focus on customer service not technology, platforms warned

The chief executive of financial services technology provider GBST Wealth Management said although RDR was more than a year old, the platform market had not been able to get on with the business of proposition development and providing a competitive service to advisers and clients.

He said: “Some platforms believe they need to ‘control their own technology’ to differentiate themselves and survive in this brave new world.

“However, I think the only way to differentiate is to allow those parts of the process that can be commoditised and automated to be so, which would allow providers to concentrate on what they think are their unique selling points.”

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He said the bar for basic competence in platforms was high, as millions of transactions went through the systems every day, and the overwhelming majority were processed without a hitch.

“This happens because we are no longer an industry of back-bedroom coders. We have flattened, standardised and commoditised the plumbing that makes platforms work,” he said.

As a result, platforms should focus on better integrating technology with providers’ existing systems, changing the things they want to make their own and putting their stamp on it by including features they believe their customers want to see.

He said that it was the user experience that would differentiate between platforms in the year ahead.

“Our job, for the platforms we work with at least, is to make sure we enable the differentiation so they can deliver what advisers want for their clients,” he added.

GBST provides outsourced front, middle and back-office platform technology for clients, such as Novia, Aegon UK, AJ Bell and Fidelity.

But Mark Polson, principal at platform consultancy The Lang Cat, said: “Differentiation has nothing to do with outsourcing or insourcing. It has to do with your mindset and about designing propositions that are relevant and exciting for your audience.”

Adviser view

Chris Budd, managing director of Bristol-based Ovation Finance, said: “We have found that often getting information from platforms through our back-office software and through to the client can be a torturous affair. It’s not easy to get software lined up and integrated.

“The point made that some of the platforms have not been designing the right propositions to meet their audience is right.

“While having everyone do their own propositions to be different would be barking mad, it is right that platforms should improve their straight-through processing, so that advisers can deliver what the client wants to see.”