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SLA platform boss admits it hasn't 'listened to advisers'

SLA platform boss admits it hasn't 'listened to advisers'

Noel Butwell, chief executive of the Standard Life Aberdeen's platform business, says the firm has been guilty of “not listening to what advisers want”, as he embarks on an 18-month plan to make his platforms "the easiest to use in the market".

Butwell has been running the Wrap and Elevate platforms for just over two years, having previously worked in sales at Standard Life. He was speaking at an online event hosted by consultancy firm Lang Cat, and revealed the platforms have combined assets of £67bn. 

He says: “We want to react and adapt quickly to what is happening in the market. To be honest it has been the case that over the past three, four or five years, we have not listened to advisers enough. And often that was because we were focused on a big internal project. And some of those projects worked, and some did not.

"51 per cent of UK advice businesses have Wrap or Elevate in them, so they can use the platforms, but they don’t all do that. And the reason they don’t is because a number of things advisers have repeatedly asked for over the years have not been done.

"We cannot do everything everyone wants, but we haven’t done things for years due to prioritising other projects, it fed into a narrative of arrogant Standard Life, which I want to change. We want to make Wrap and Elevate the easiest platforms to use. No platform is ever easy, but I want us to be the easiest.”

He says there will be a number of changes to the Wrap and Elevate platform announced later this year which he believes will increase functionality.

Butwell says making the platforms easier to use will also benefit his business, as a significant number of queries they recieve right now are about issues that advisers can actually sort out by using the platform itself, but because of the overly complicated way the platforms are currently engineered, makes it difficult for advisers to do this, so they are forced to contact the platform directly, which uses the resources of Standard Life Aberdeen in a way that is not necessary.

Butwell hopes the changes made later this year will make both platforms more intuitive. He believes the direction of travel for all platforms in future will be to increase personalisation, that is, have the resources available look more like the individual advice firm’s branding. 

Ben Hammond, platform’s director at consultancy firm Altus says personalisation is a trend which has been emerging in the platform market for many years.  

Standard Life Aberdeen will change its name to Abrdn later this year, but both the Wrap and Elevate platforms will continue to operate as separate businesses. 

Butwell says “a major reason” why the new brand name, which is pronounced Aberdeen, is spelt without the vowels is because the city of Aberdeen already owns the internet domain names for 'Aberdeen'.

david.thorpe@ft.com