Replatforming is making life difficult for everyone involved

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Guide to platforms

Replatforming is making life difficult for everyone involved

Replatforming has been an ongoing thorn in the side for a number of providers, with many advisers and their clients unable to use the platform while the issues persisted.

In recent weeks, the most serious client complaints have started to reach the desk of the Ombudsman.

Cofunds has been one of the worst affected by replatforming issues since its merger with Aegon was announced in May 2018, and in the first two months of 2019 the Financial Ombudsman Service upheld four complaints against the firm.

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Aviva has also had its fair share of issues since it moved its technology provider to FNZ in January 2018 that resulted in the platform being unavailable for six days, with additional functionality problems and payment issues for those in drawdown.

“I think we’ve all learned that large scale re-platforming issues are incredibly hard,” exclaims Steven Nelson, consultant director at The Lang Cat.

“Ultimately there’s not a great deal advisers can do about some of the more critical failures in functionality that we’ve seen, however there are some low-level issues that the whole sector can work better to alleviate.

“We’ve seen issues such as misunderstandings around new log-in protocols not being fully understood that have then resulted in service desks being clogged. That sounds like something that could be alleviated via more effective communication lines and would release one of the many pressure valves.”

Ben Hammond, principal consultant at Altus, agrees that one of the most important conclusions that can be drawn from the saga is that advisers must keep in regular contact with their platform.

He says: “Platform providers need to be continually innovating and a major change in technology may be part of this process.

“In addition, many platforms aren’t profitable, so further consolidation is inevitable – this could lead to an enforced replatforming. Heed the warnings of what’s to come from your platform, speak to your BDM or platform support team directly if you need to.

“When speaking with customers, seek to understand any requirements around the planned time of the migration and how these may be affected or delayed by the planned changes. Finally, make sure you understand and adhere to any deadlines and black-out periods the platform may put in place when switching to a new system.”

Analysis carried out by The Lang Cat in 2018 suggested that the majority of adviser platform assets would be affected by “serious disruption” of the provider business, including things like listing on the stock exchange, merger and acquisition activity and changes to the technology supplier.

According to Verona Kenny, head of intermediary at 7IM, advisers can reduce the danger of replatforming issues by spreading the risk among a number of platforms.

She says: “This may reduce the efficiency of the business, but will ensure that less clients are affected should issues arise with a particular platform. We have seen instances of this recently where advisers with significant assets on only one platform with replatforming issues have begun to source alternative and additional providers.