For all the good work that has been done by advisers, clients and businesses in rapidly adapting and transitioning to digital and remote working, not all parts of our industry have been so responsive.
While we are surging ahead, platforms and insurance providers are largely lumbering in our wake. They are not evolving fast enough to meet their responsibilities to us as businesses, and by extension, the clients. This is a situation that puts us all at risk.
Let’s look at some examples. The fact that digital signatures are not universally available on every single provider document is frankly unacceptable.
Another example: standard re-registration of assets from one platform to another can take 10 weeks, when it should not be taking more than 10 days to complete in this tech-enabled world.
These examples, and others like them, slow us down to a pace that is frustrating and unnecessarily slow when so many other areas and industries are speeding up.
Attempts to upgrade provider technology mid-pandemic have often been delayed, with providers citing a lack of available staff due to furlough or even the view that it is advisers themselves who are not yet ready to adopt.
In my view, it is the advice businesses who saw which way the wind was blowing before the pandemic, and who had already begun making far-reaching, client-centric decisions about technology adoption, who were, unsurprisingly, the ones best placed to adapt and respond positively.
Service standards are still taking a hit a year into the pandemic, with Covid being cited as an ongoing excuse. Now as we stand on the brink of a return to normality, not only will this excuse no longer be valid, but it is fairly clear that as an industry we will not be going to back to where we once were, which means change from all parties is essential.
There is a partial inertia from providers and platforms, evident in the way they often seem to be simply responding to events rather than taking the initiative to effect necessary changes.
This, coupled with their assumption that advice businesses and clients will follow in their footsteps at the same stately pace, makes for painstakingly slow progress.
As we have seen clearly over the past year, the reality is that the IFA community drives the industry forward and the providers and platforms are now struggling to keep up.
So how do we change this? What the past year has underlined is that we need more conversation and collaboration. The advice sector needs to come together to help improve outcomes.
If we can articulate as an industry what businesses need from their providers and platforms, then we can help them develop the tech that suits our own and our customers’ needs.
Platforms and providers need to take an active interest in what businesses and clients want and what they are trying to achieve. Those who don’t risk being picked off by challengers entering the marketplace with more responsive, tech-based propositions, tailor-made to customer requirements.