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Firing Line: Ben Goss

Ben Goss, chief executive of Distribution Technology, was once ridiculed for his belief in arguably the most important development in modern technology: the internet.

Before leaving his role as a strategy consultant with Coopers & Lybrand in 1998, Mr Goss discussed the opportunities the internet could present to many of his clients working within the investment marketplace, life companies and banking – though they were not as enthusiastic about the future prospects of the medium.

“I remember speaking to one senior banker who said it was a fad and would eventually go away,” Mr Goss said.

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Eager to take advantage of the new development in technology, Mr Goss co-founded Sort, the UK’s first online investment adviser, which he estimated serviced 1,000 people a day 18 months after its inception.

In his previous role, Mr Goss was involved in the launch of Egg and Direct Line’s telephone-based proposition.

In 2003, Sort was sold to online investment advice firm mPower, now owned by Morningstar, in which Mr Goss served as UK managing director before going on to establish Distribution Technology in 2003.

The firm works with upwards of 70 asset management firms to profile the risk of more than 800 of their funds and portfolios, representing about £60bn in invested assets and helping advisers assess their suitability.

Mr Goss said: “When we started the company 12 years ago technology was not necessarily seen as a must-have or as part of the solution for professionals within finance.

“Post RDR, technology, digital technology in particular has become absolutely fundamental to the success of advisory firms, not only helping them reduce cost and risk, but also helping them to have more engaging conversations with their clients.”

The firm’s flagship product, Dynamic Planner, is used by more that 6,000 financial advisers, up from a couple of hundred in 2011, according to Mr Goss, and is integrated into 20 or more investment platforms.

He said: “Clients value and trust the expertise of their financial adviser, but there is also a lot of time put into the process, too much paperwork and too much re-keying – it is a very inefficient industry.

“We build our technology to remove the cost and risk of rekeying. Our strategy is to build compelling apps. We are investing over £1m a year. This year we are investing £1.1m in our new product lines – they are principally apps.”

The firm announced a new risk profiling app, which it claims increases productivity by 84 per cent and reduces the time for a typical client suitability review from five hours to 49 minutes, according to an independent review by F&TRC.

When it comes to risk profiling, the need to scrutinise the client and investment solutions is paramount in providing suitable advice, but can be extremely difficult to do without the use of technology, Mr Goss said.

He added: “A risk profiling app should be delivered as part of a wider conversation with the clients. It is not a substitute for a proper conversation, but a welcome and time-efficient addition to the process.”