For advisers, platforms form an integral part of their everyday business.
There are currently around 20 platforms operating in the UK, each offering a number of features, functions and assistance to support adviser businesses.
What is needed, or deemed most useful, from a platform is almost unique to the individual adviser, largely dependent on how that relationship will work in practice and the extent that the platform will be required by the business.
Verona Kenny, head of intermediary at 7IM, explains: “I could rattle off a load of features but these features are only relevant if the firm and their clients require these.
“At the heart, all platforms need to deliver dealing and custody and client reporting, as well as providing a high level of service and responsiveness, at a competitive price. Over and above that, it is all dependent on the firm's client proposition and their business model.”
Nucleus chief customer officer Barry Neilson agrees: “While platforms have a clear role to play in helping an advice business be more efficient, it’s worth remembering that platform choice should also be about supporting great client outcomes.
“This means advisers should be able to demonstrate how a particular platform fits with clients’ needs, and the types of clients advisers are working with. Being able to back up your due diligence in terms of why your chosen platform is the most suitable for your clients is especially important given the ongoing regulatory focus under the product governance, or PROD, rules.”
According to Ben Hammond, principal consultant at Altus, there are three essential key features advisers need from a platform – integration, model portfolio tools and pension drawdown functionality.
He says: “Integration – this is the main point. Many advisers use more than one platform (for differing segments of their client bank), and each will have different processes, so the ability to start and end the customer journey in a single place will give a vastly better outcome.
“For model portfolios, [advisers want] alerts around drift, comprehensive rebalancing functionality, and the ability to set up trades in advance and execute later. For pension drawdown functionality, multiple payment dates and auto sell-down are top of the list.”
Meanwhile, he adds: “What advisers generally don’t need are the ‘bells and whistles’ tools that some platforms like to provide. For example, typically, an adviser will use a specialist cash-flow modelling tool, and a tight integration with the platform would be far more valuable than a platform-provided clumsy version of the same.”
Reporting is typically at the top of any adviser list when it comes to choosing a platform, particularly as firms continue to move towards being paperless and on-the-go advisers need information away from the office environment.