Service levels a ‘mixed bag’ during Covid-19

Service levels a ‘mixed bag’ during Covid-19

Financial advisers have branded the service levels they have received during the Covid-19 lockdown as a 'mixed bag', with discretionary managers getting a thumbs up but platforms and insurers failing to wow intermediaries.

While some sections of the financial services world are perceived to have done everything possible to deliver top-notch service to advisers and clients despite the upheaval caused by the global pandemic, others have failed to deliver anything much at all.

This was the view of Neil Moles, chief executive of Progeny, who said: "We’ve pulled out all the stops to look after our clients and support them through these challenging and unprecedented times. Unfortunately, we have not received the same level of support from providers."

He acknowledged Covid-19 "took everyone by surprise" but said that, as everyone had to adapt quickly to the new situation, it was important that providers, with the wealth of resources behind them, should try to adapt swiftly. 

But this was not the case, he explained. "We had to bring in new tools and ways of working, like using Docusign for signatures and being personally available on whatever platforms our clients want us.

"But we have not seen a flexible, available and forward-looking approach reflected in the working practices of many providers. 

“At times like this, we have a joint responsibility to keep servicing our clients to the standards to which they are accustomed."

And Mr Moles warned that poor service, thrust into even greater relief against the backdrop of the Covid-19 crisis, would stick in advisers' memories.

He said: "Just as clients will evaluate their relationship with their adviser on the basis of how well they have been supported throughout the coronavirus crisis, so will firms evaluate their relationships with providers.”

One particular area where flexibility of service and processes failed was that of legacy platforms. When lockdown began in earnest in the UK at the end of March, those platforms and investment houses whose systems were outdated soon found themselves outpaced in terms of service delivery to their distribution partners and intermediaries, according to David Simpson, head of EMEA at GBST.

He commented: "Within the platform sector, while some providers have been able to switch seamlessly to remote working to deliver a consistent top-class service, others have not coped so well with the changes required by Covid-19."

Those with cloud-based, digital systems, where the back office integrates into the front-end via a number of APIs that enable staff and clients to access services from anywhere, ensured advisers could "perform all the actions they would normally do in the office".

But as Mr Simpson explained: "Unfortunately, those with less flexible technology and a greater reliance on paper and phone calls have found it harder to adapt.

"Working away from the office has been a major challenge for platforms who rely heavily on manual processes, posted documents, wet signatures and on-premise technology hosting that cannot be accessed remotely.