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M&G promises platform improvements after adviser complaints

M&G promises platform improvements after adviser complaints
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M&G has promised a series of developments following adviser complaints of wet signatures still being required and signs of a dip in service levels.

The Ascentric platform owner sent an email on May 11 laying out the developments, which include "deep" back-office integration, cloud-based customer relationship management tools, and e-signature software.

While the first two platform updates were not given a time stamp, paperless transactions are set to be in place by the end of this year.

Fund house M&G bought Ascentric in May 2020, with clients having been migrated to Bravura. Originally, it had planned to re-launch the platform under its own brand last year, but the firm decided to delay launch until sometime this year. 

The loss from M&G’s platform and advice business increased slightly to £4mn in 2021, from £2mn a year earlier.

Ian Else, founder of 4 Financial Planning, is a soon-to-be former M&G customer. He told FTAdviser the lack of full digitisation on the platform meant long PDF forms which are not pre-populated have to be printed off and wet signed by both client and adviser.

“By the time an adviser does it, they've spent an hour versus six minutes. It's only one person who pays for that in the long run, and it’s the client,” said Else.

He said M&G was "so far behind the game" because it still does not accept e-signatures across the board. "It sounds like 'we’re doing all this and we might just catch up with the other platforms',” said Else.

He added that “M&G should concentrate on getting its second rate platform right first, before investing in other ventures". He was referencing M&G’s investment in direct-to-consumer business Moneyfarm which occured at the beginning of this year.

M&G told FTAdviser the requirement for a wet signature from the client “for most forms and processes” was removed in 2020. The firm expects full digitisation of all its key processes to complete in early 2023.

It also argued it has “completely modernised” Ascentric’s infrastructure, improved operational resilience, and invested in adviser support by “substantially increasing” its account management and adoption teams.

Fellow M&G user and Cardiff-based independent financial planner, Kate Shaw, said she had seen a “real drop-off” in service levels since M&G took over. 

“It’s hard to get to speak to somebody and it can take weeks to get a reply to an email. Hopefully it’ll get better but I’m not holding my breath. It’s a real shame because they used to be great."

In response to the latest developments, Shaw said it “sounds good”, before quickly caveating “let’s see if they deliver and their service levels pick up”.