TechnologyFeb 4 2022

Adviser platforms need to be 'configurable', says Wealth Wizards founder

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Adviser platforms need to be 'configurable', says Wealth Wizards founder
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Adviser platforms are “changing shape” but there's more work to do to ensure the market caters better to advisers' changing needs, according to Bravura’s business development head Emma Napier.

Appearing on the Lang Cat's latest HomeGames webinar last week (January 26), Napier explained that platforms have been around for 10-15 years and in that time have widely stayed the same.

However, some platforms were now branching off and starting to develop their offering to advisers, she said. 

She said: “There's certain platforms that are changing shape now in the industry. And those platforms are the platforms of the future.”

The technology executive cited Fidelity FundsNetwork’s recent brand change to ‘Fidelity Adviser Solutions’, reported by FTAdviser last week (January 25), as an example.

“Now that says to me that they're trying to tune the old FundsNetwork platform into an adviser solution, because not every adviser is the same,” said Napier.

In light of the current wave of mergers and acquisitions across the advice sector, Napier said platforms needed to adapt to the varied requirements each advice firm had.

“Platforms can change the game by using micro services, or just future developments, to think ahead and ask ‘what do I need to look like?’ or ‘how can I be more efficient?’.

“There's so much that they can do, and that's where they should be looking for the future - [at] the agility and the expertise that they've got.”

Despite the growth of white-label platform technology such as Multrees and Seccl, the Bravura executive said most advice firms did not want to own or control the technology, but they did want to have influence on their client proposition. “This is really crucial,” she said.

There’s nothing worse than having something that’s not quite right, and then having the client see that. It just makes you look inept.Lena Patel, director of ISJ Financial Planning

Napier was joined in the session by Tony Vail, co-founder of Wealth Wizards, the owner of adviser software provider Turo, who said platform development should be about "being configurable”. 

He continued: “I don’t want a small advice firm having to get two QAs [quality assurance] and a development team just to configure the tech to give a differentiated proposition.

“They [advice firms] should get Intelligent Office or Azure platform or whatever is out of the box and make it work for their practice, with their funds, with their way of engaging with the client.”

Annual reviews

One issue listeners raised was whether a set of common standards might evolve among platforms on how they deal with advisers’ annual reviews.

The adviser should be able to run a report whenever they want to.Tony Vail

Advice firms have expressed their frustration over the years, according to The Lang Cat, around the fact they have to go round different providers for information. 

The consultancy put the question to the panel on a common standard as a solution, acknowledging platforms had, in the past, said they were hesitant to share ‘commercially sensitive data’ and help their competitors.

Napier said the industry would reach a common standard eventually, but that it was about getting old legacy providers to make data work better.

For this, she again referred platforms to the benefits of micro services architecture. “Pull it all together, put it in a format that an adviser needs to receive it, and hook that back in.”

Vail said the platform industry was in need of open data standards. 

“When you set a client up, you should be able to get any information you like back. Why are we talking about annual reviews? Shouldn't a client be able to review their holdings anytime? The adviser should be able to run a report whenever they want to.

“The challenge is going to be to get there. We need open data standards, and that's going to be harder than we all hope I’m sure. But we’ve got to work on them.”

Lena Patel, director of ISJ Financial Planning, also speaking at the HomeGames session, agreed the process around annual reviews needed to speed up.

But she also said some platforms needed to review their integrations. “The integrations are there, but they’re not at the deeper level they need to be - ie, everything synchronised without the need for manual input.”

She added: “It’s ok saying ‘we’ve got APIs [application programme interfaces] and lots of integrations’ but they’ve got to be good quality and robust stuff we can use and rely upon.

“There’s nothing worse than having something that’s not quite right, and then having the client see that. It just makes you look inept.”