Old Mutual is set to expand its online self-serve Isa top-up model nationally, following a successful pilot earlier this year, Old Mutual Wealth’s self-proclaimed investment platform expert Mike Barrett told FTAdviser.
Mr Barrett believes that consumer behaviour is changing, with evidence suggesting that fewer and fewer clients want to be either exclusively advised or non-advised, preferring instead the freedom to mix-and-match.
“That is why we trialled an online self-serve Isa top-up with a handful of advisers and clients earlier in the year. Following the success of that pilot, we are looking to make it more widely available.
“Expect the evolution of the advice model – and what customers expect of advisers – to be an ongoing theme in 2015.”
While platforms have been a valuable administrative tool, those who wish to remain competitive will need to evolve to add more value, Mr Barrett added.
He said that with transparency comes visibility and advisers and their customers will not settle for second best.
“Platforms will need to work harder to seamlessly combine their services with asset management expertise, investment management services and added-value technical support for advisers.”
OM Wealth has made a long-term commitment to partner with software provider IFDS to develop its future platform proposition.
“While we are not the only platform upgrading technology, our aim is not just to keep pace with change, but to go one-step further and deliver the best user experience in the market,” stated Mr Barrett, although he kept the details under his hat for now.
While Old Mutual’s platform is now in profit, he pointed out that those struggling to keep up financially will be left further behind as the quality of technology is turned up a notch.
“As the regulator increasingly looks to scrutinise investment advisers and their choice of provider, financial strength will become even more important than ever as a differentiator in the platform market.”
The OM Wealth platform expects to have fully unbundled all its assets by this time next year, but Mr Barrett admitted that just 12 months ago some in the industry believed the Financial Conduct Authority had essentially regulated the business model out of existence by requiring platform service providers to be remunerated by an explicit customer agreed charge for all new business written from April 2014.
“The subsequent unbundling of charges also has a knock-on impact on adviser fees for platform business, similar to that of the RDR. Such a major shift, both for the platform and for advisers, required careful planning and clear communication.”
However, one year on and 75 per cent of the firm’s platform assets are now operating under an adviser charging model.