Investments  

Platforms wrestle with advisers' remote-working criticisms

Parmenion, by contrast, told its adviser users at the end of March that it would shift from scanned applications to e-signatures “in the next few weeks”.

Balancing accessibility with security is a key consideration for platforms. But the majority appear to have accepted the need to overhaul their practices, particularly as the shift to remote working has come at what is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for advisers.

Flexibility 

This year’s Isa season has been overshadowed by both the virus and the ensuing market volatility, but platforms have been offering workarounds to intermediaries. Ascentric is among those now taking instructions from advisers, by email or phone, for existing client Isa declarations.

It is also permitting advisers to email client authorisations for issues such as setting up new wrappers or changing existing investments.

Transact, meanwhile, is offering a similar signature-free service for existing clients wanting to open an Isa or Lisa. In this case the platform will ring clients directly following an email instruction from their intermediary. A confirmation then follows by post.

Some advisers have expressed frustration at the continued need for paper-based communications in such instructions. But Transact, like most others, said it is continuing to hone its processes. The platform is ahead of the curve on another aspect of Isa season, according to NextWealth.

“Another issue is with wrap transfers. With a fresh Isa allowance coming up, advisers worry the timing is wrong to move money from a general investment account to an Isa. As far as we know, only Transact offers in-specie wrap transfer. More need to offer this – and soon,” Ms Hopkins wrote last week.

To reduce risks relating to time out of the market, which are particularly pronounced for pension transfers, NextWealth added that some advisers are postponing taking on new clients until later in the year.

Withdrawing client assets in the age of remote working is another complication, given the risk of fraud is greater. Some platforms have what the Lang Cat terms “straight-through processing”, which typically removes the need for signatures once accounts have been opened.

Those who have previously adopted a more belt and braces approach are, once again, easing their restrictions in light of the crisis. Novia is now accepting client withdrawal instructions with an adviser signature rather than that of the client.

Sometimes it takes a crisis for real change to occur. The shifts taking place across the platform industry over the past fortnight have been replicated, to an extent, by other providers such as life companies.