Consumer duty  

Consumer duty to take platform due diligence to 'new level'

Consumer duty to take platform due diligence to 'new level'

The consumer duty will take the due diligence advisers are required to do into their choice of platform to a "whole new level", according to a paper published by consultancy firm Altus.

The paper, sponsored by Parmenion, said the duty will force advice firms and platforms to "work even closer together" due to its emphasis on consumer understanding and customer support.

It said: "Successful advice firms will foster deeper relationships with platforms and develop a mutual understanding of the outcomes they are jointly targeting, which will in turn permeate everything they do.

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"The days of giant platforms offering universal services may be numbered; successful platforms will focus on serving more tightly defined niches and orienting development towards adding value to those firms, as well as getting the small things right."

The consumer duty is due to come into effect next year and is designed to create a higher level of consumer protection in retail financial services.

As an example of the impact of the consumer duty, the paper said advisers would have to weigh up the price of a platform with the value their clients get from it - but this is rendered complex by the bundling of a set of services into one, which will make research critical.

The paper also said advisers would have to make sure they carry out due diligence on a platform's product literature and that they work with their chosen platform in communicating with clients to ensure consumer understanding.

Kevin Okell, managing director of Altus, said: "It's easy to forget just how integral investment platforms are to professional, independent advice.

"With the relationship between platform and adviser set to become even closer under consumer duty, it seems clear that due diligence is about to be taken to a whole new level."

Given the closer relationship between adviser and platform which the consumer duty will usher in, the paper goes on to explore whether advisers should consider running their own platforms.

In recent years an increasing number of providers have launched into the 'build your own platform' space, including Seccl, Hubwise and Multrees.

But the paper warned that the costs and benefits of this "do not always stack up".

It said: "The margins are low, and it is difficult to operate at the level of efficiency and cost base that the traditional platforms have achieved, where profitability is often derived from scale that very few advice firms possess."

The paper went on to say that an advice firm would need to understand the scale of the work involved in running their own platform and that it would risk distracting them from their core business if not built and managed correctly.

Martin Jennings, chief executive of Parmenion, said: "Consumer duty will mean that both financial advisers and platforms need to elevate the scrutiny of the firms they work with.

"As consumer duty looks set to be the biggest shake-up of financial services since the RDR, we are expecting big changes in our sector."