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'Nobody has ever done this': AJ Bell boss on platform app launch

'Nobody has ever done this': AJ Bell boss on platform app launch

AJ Bell is readying to launch its new platform Touch via an app at the backend of this year, which will complement and run alongside the firm's other advised platform, Investcentre.

The app-based platform, a product of its acquisition of Adalpha in March, is being overseen by Fergus Lyons, former managing director of Investcentre.

Meanwhile Billy Mackay - who describes himself as Lyons’ “right-hand man for more than six years” - is now overseeing Investcentre in a new role as MD of that business.

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Mackay said the majority of apps already in the adviser space are used to consume portfolio valuation information, whereas Touch, which doubles up as an investment platform, will allow information to be passed between the IFA and the client, creating audit trails on decisions for portfolios which will form part of their advice process.

"This technology will be doing what we have previously hidden behind the platform, which is using mobile technology to communicate and to evidence the transactions which happen between advisers and clients."

Mackay added: “Nobody has ever launched something like this in the adviser space." In response to whether he thinks it will be a success, he said: “We’ll find out.”

Part of the idea behind Touch is to "test" an all-digital proposition with advisers' clients. All the while being able to fall back on a tried and tested profitable platform which has been running for years.

“We have the ability to run both platforms [Investcentre and Touch] alongside each other. [Investcentre] has a more built-in audience, but still relies on a more historic approach to adviser-to-customer relationships.”

Touch, which is an all-digital offering, will start with an Isa and GIA offering a fund-based investment range, before adding a pension and additional investment options.

The app will initially be soft launched amongst a small group of advisers in 2021, before being launched more widely. Advisers' clients will be able to sit on both platforms.

Pointing to AJ Bell’s growing reserves, which have seen net inflows for its advised business climb 36 per cent to £3.8bn over the past year, Mackay said: “We're going to have the ability to find out [how Touch performs]. We can test it and see how much appetite there is for it.”

He added: “My instinct is more people will adopt it. I think more and more people are getting comfortable with technology.”

The new Investcentre boss referenced a series of seminars he sat in on with advisers recently, in which he became aware of this shift in client sentiment.

“One of the things that's coming through is that 12-18 months ago, our average client on Investcentre - which is [aged] 50 plus - wouldn't possibly interact with technology as much as some of our younger clients.