National Savings & Investments is undergoing a complete overhaul of its systems, as it looks to “up the ante” and pull in more advisers.
Andrew Pike, head of intermediary relationships at the government-owned provider, said his organisation has had a “distant” relationship with advisers in the past, but it had spent the past few years trying to bridge the gap.
He promised NS&I was about to turn a corner as it completes a modernisation programme, which has been ongoing for the past four years and will stretch into 2017.
Challenges for the organisation in working with advisers include increasing the number of products available to IFAs - which currently stands at four - and ensuring it has the services they need, explained Mr Pike.
“My main priority over the next two years is to sort out the difficulties advisers face when doing business with us,” he said, adding NS&I is “under no illusion what the problems are”.
In October NS&I plans to make “tactical” changes to streamline aspects of its services, including allowing advisers to have indefinite authority to obtain information on client holdings, without having to produce a ‘letter of authority’ each time.
The body is also making improvements to its call centre, including boosting the number of staff and their level of skill, so they can deal with more complex adviser queries.
Mr Pike said upgrades to technology are due next year, as NS&I ensures the revamp will be suitable for the consumer side of the business, before it moves to the advised arm.
He admitted the scale and complexity of the modernisation programme meant there had been delays to its implementation.
The organisation has around 500,000 customers who have each got more than £50,000 invested in NS&I products, and while it was unable to track how many of these customers are advised, Mr Pike said there was a good chance the vast majority would be.
“While we don’t actively target the wealthier clients because we have to appeal to everyone, we do realise these high value clients are becoming increasingly influenced by financial advisers.”
Advisers expressed their disappointment recently following NS&I’s bout of rate cuts, but Mr Pike said it was a balancing exercise between using taxpayers’ money wisely and treating customers fairly.
He admitted the organisation cannot offer the best rates, because it would risk de-stabilising the market, but argued customers remain loyal to NS&I because its government backing means clients’ cash is “100 per cent secure”.
NS&I’s premium bonds have also been mired in criticism, as the organisation cut the number of prizes on offer, triggering questions over whether savers would be better off putting their money elsewhere where it can work harder.
Mr Pike said the criticism stems from investors looking at premium bonds in the same way they would look at any other type of investment, which neglects the “fun element” of the prizes.