Firing line  

Bill Vasilieff: 'I'm not retiring, I'm just changing tack'

“When we launched Selestia, we were told there is only room for two platforms, but obviously that wasn’t the case. When I look at the wider market, I see there are 80 or 90 life insurance companies, and probably over 100 fund management firms, so why can’t there be 15 platforms?

"But the fact is there won’t be, there will be more consolidation. The private equity firms love consolidation, they love economies of scale. There is no doubt the margins made by Novia were decimated over the years, from when we started, to where they ended up.”

He says that when the whole-of-market platforms, such as Novia, Nucleus and Transact, came into existence, “they offered greater transparency for the end client. The life companies were not very transparent and nor were they usually whole-of-market, that is what we changed".

He adds: "There is a big difference between the adviser platforms and the provider platforms, as the latter have sales that are tied to the provider. It was also the adviser platforms that brought in the innovations in the market, such as online trading, and the whole-of-market option for clients.

"I think with PI insurance being such a major issue for IFAs, that could drive more to become restricted advisers, and that is not great for clients. [Regarding] the new entrants into the market now, some of them are winning market share but not significantly and they are not making money.

"I think the thing that unites [Transact founder] Ian Taylor, [Nucleus founder] David Ferguson, and myself is that we all believed strongly in being transparent with the client.”

All three of those businesses, which were at the forefront of creating the adviser platform industry, have since been sold, with Taylor and Vasilieff both departing. 

Switching providers

An issue which has been at the forefront of many advisers' thoughts throughout the period in which Vasilieff has been in the market is the ease of switching provider. 

Vasilieff says: “At the moment the whole process is a bit clunky. I think some platforms make it more difficult than it has to be by negotiating special deals. I certainly do not think there should be exit fees; fundamentally, it is the client’s money, and if they want to move it, it's their business, and it should not be complicated. 

"A lot of the problems in the industry come from the life companies. The way they were run was very opaque, and when they entered the platform market, they brought a lot of bad habits with them.”

Vasilieff is so early into his period of extra leisure time, he has yet to work out how to spend it.