PlatformsOct 8 2020

Platform signatures still a sticking point for advisers

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Platform signatures still a sticking point for advisers

There is still room for improvement regarding the service provided to advice firms by their platforms, advisers have claimed, with the slow move to paperless transactions remaining a key sticking point.

Advisers told FTAdviser that while some platforms had moved relatively quickly during the coronavirus crisis to maintain and enhance service levels and implement new processes, there were areas in which platforms could improve.

Scott Gallacher, of Rowley Turton, said admin burdens and costs were an issue for advisers which had been “highlighted” during the pandemic.

He said: “Many providers still insist on wet signatures and initially refused to accept electronic signatures.

“The main improvements needed would be around the acceptance of electronic signatures, but I have seen improvements in this since Covid hit the UK with some platforms now accepting them.”

Alistair Cunningham, of Wingate Financial Planning, agreed. He said most modern platforms had coped well — although he pointed out some “old heritage life insurers” had struggled — but added that he would welcome more of a move to paperless processes and electronic signatures.

Their comments come after Barry Neilson, chief customer officer at the wrap platform, told FTAdviser that platforms had an “obligation” to continue developing and improving their offering during the coronavirus crisis due to the strong impact it has on adviser businesses.

Mr Neilson said although adviser businesses had been relatively resilient throughout the pandemic, there was an onus on platforms to serve advice firms better to free up resources and cut costs.

He added: “New business levels have properly dropped for the majority of advisers. In a world where that has a financial impact on businesses, they will be looking at how to make savings and manage their cost base, and administration costs are a big part of that.

“The onus is on the platforms to be thinking hard about the adviser business they serve and continue to improve how the adviser does basic administration.

“You then free up that resource for financial planning — and that’s the part the clients really value and benefit from.”

Martin Bamford, head of client education at Informed Choice, agreed. He said platforms played an important role in ensuring the health of the advisory sector and could support “fledgling firms” through business and marketing development.

Meanwhile Alistair Fullerton, of Lathe and Co, said the issue varied from platform to platform.

He said: “We’ve seen those platforms that actually implemented change quickly are the ones that had a good business prior to Covid. 

“[Some] made quick changes and enabled a more frictionless business processing experience. Others have been bogged down and reduced their quality as they cannot handle working remotely and struggle to make any quick changes.”

The issues mirror those aired by advisers at the start of the crisis, when poor or patchy service became a growing source of frustration for many platform users despite efforts to meet remote-working requirements.

Some platform businesses have been quick to counter — Nucleus and Transact both now accept digital signatures — while others have struggled to maintain service levels.

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