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Tech spotlight: Ch-ch-ch-changes

Tech spotlight: Ch-ch-ch-changes

As I write this, we are 11 days into 2016, so let’s recap on the year so far. The safe booze limit has been cut to something most Scots would recognise best as a pre-game ‘sharpener’; Lemmy has been stuck under the turf; everywhere is soaking; and David Bowie died today.

All in all, I think I’ll have 2015 back, if it’s all the same to you.

But I can’t, of course I can’t, so let’s plough forward with reckless abandon into the dense haar (a thick sea fog that delays your flights into and out of Edinburgh) that is 2016 and try to work out what technology might have in store for us all.

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It is certainly true that financial technology, or fintech, is having a moment, and many bearded types in Shoreditch are shuttering their cereal cafes, pausing on the pulled pork and turning instead to artisan-made fintech startups. It is all very fascinating, but as I have suggested in previous issues, little of it is directly relevant to the life of an adviser. New payment systems, crypto-currencies, microinsurance and money transfer protocols are great, but tough to fit into a suitability letter.

Nonetheless, at the risk of looking (even more of) a tosser at the end of this year, I suspect we will see a few interesting advances. Some of the componentry developed by the start-ups may make it into real life – particularly around data integration and identity verification. None of these will change the world, but anything that reduces the need for Typing Stuff In is good.

Touting for business

You will find more providers touting for your business in the clumsily titled ‘Business To Business To Customer’ (B2B2C) space. In a nutshell, this will see platform providers hacking their online journeys about to allow you to offer either a branded simplified advice or execution-only service to your clients, which includes an income stream for you. The undisputed king of this is Parmenion, now owned by Aberdeen, which powers Fiver-a-day, Wealth Horizon and others.

Old Mutual also has an offering, which was quietly launched last year; it is mainly an in-house thing at the moment but could certainly be retooled to take on Parmenion. We know of three other providers who are in various stages of build with similar propositions, and there will be more besides.

All of these will get lots of airtime, and be very satisfying to the companies that run them as they get to play with new brands, bright colours, Helvetica logos and all that kind of thing. In time some may even grow to a size where they provide a decent income stream and a kindergarten for clients who may want Proper Financial Planning at some point. Most will not, and on aggregate I suspect all the adviser-fronted robos put together won’t even tickle the bunions of a modestly sized platform any time soon.

Top tips

If you are tempted to look at one of these propostions – and they can be good fun and put the entrepreneurial spark back into life – then here are Mark’s six top tips on how to do it right and give yourself the best chance of getting something that works.