AJ Bell creates platform due diligence service

AJ Bell creates platform due diligence service

AJ Bell has launched an online service to help advisers choose a suitable investment platform for their client.

The Due Diligence Hub includes features, independent content and commentary from FinalytiQ, the Lang Cat, Platforum and Defaqto. 

It also gives advisers access to AJ Bell’s own due diligence factsheet, which includes information on the platform’s financial strength, service, functionality, investment choice and pricing.

The factsheet is based around questions that AJ Bell is often asked by advisers, as well as guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority.

Last year, the regulator published the findings of a thematic review which highlighted the quality of due diligence carried out by adviser firms on platforms. 

This heightened regulatory focus comes at a time when concerns have increased over the profitability and financial stability of some platforms. 

Billy Mackay, marketing director at AJ Bell, said the recent flurry of platform migrations have emphasised the importance of robust due diligence for advisers.

He described platform due diligence as “something of a minefield”, saying there is no single formula that can be used to navigate the process. 

AJ Bell estimated that £200bn of customer assets are going to be migrated to new technology in the near future. 

Mr Mackay said: “Having already gone through a re-platforming exercise ourselves, we know it is not easy, and there will inevitably be issues and challenges for any firm that switches to new technology.” 

He there is was therefore no surprise that more advisers are at least considering a due diligence review.

The marketing boss added: “Our hub has been set up to help them by providing a slightly tongue in cheek approach that offers a variety of views on what robust due diligence looks like.”

Matthew Harris, IFA and owner of Dalbeath Financial Planning, said: "Anything which allows advisers to more easily compare platforms is welcome.

"The AJ Bell hub contains a few interesting articles; it doesn't include a comparison tool such as that offered by Symantec, but it doesn't pretend to so that's fine." 

The launch of AJ Bell's service comes after Old Mutual Wealth announced on 2 May that it had ditched technology provider IFDS after it ran into problems with its platform upgrade.

Old Mutual instead signed a deal with FNZ, which powers a number of major platforms, including Standard Life and Elevate.

The upgrade with IFDS was expected to cost Old Mutual around £450m, whereas the move to FNZ is estimated to cost between £120m and £160m.

Paul Feeney, chief executive of Old Mutual Wealth, said: “Given the cost, effort and time already invested in the programme, we have not taken these decisions lightly. 

“This has been a difficult journey for all stakeholders. We have made tough decisions today but we believe they are the right decisions for our customers, their advisers, our business and our shareholders.”