Firing Line: Verona Smith

Firing Line: Verona Smith

The appointment of Verona Smith as head of platform at 7IM must have seemed a gift to the UK platform industry.

She came over to the UK from Australia 14 years ago, having already taken part in the development of wraps in Australia, and saw the industry start all over again in the UK.

She said: "When I came over here, it was comedy. It was so far behind the Australian market, I though 'You guys must be joking'."

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She came into the platform market in the UK as a contractor, working for Legal & General, putting L&G products on the Cofunds platform. This was how she met the team at Cofunds, which she joined in 2006, eventually becoming marketing director and head of proposition. 

She said: "It was the right time, right place. I had been at Cofunds when it had next to nothing under management. When I left it had £60bn. But it was a good time to leave."

She worked for platform consultancy Platforum for a while before joining 7IM in 2013. 

The platform at 7IM is different to many others on the market because it was set up to help the company's own discretionary managers. It has since branched out to appeal to financial advisers, many of whom are already using the discretionary service, who then have automatic access to the platform. 

Ms Smith said: "It's not about the platform to have so many assets. It's about what kind of firm or client are they servicing. We service mass affluent, high-net-worth or ultra-high-net-worth. The average balance is £350,000, and average firm has £10.3m of assets. 

"At the end of the day a platform is how the adviser and the end customer experience the service that financial services gives; we support the advisers so they can give a good service to the clients."

An example of this is the development of an app, 7IMagine, that allows the customer instant access to their portfolio online. She said: "It's a different way for our clients to get engaged with their portfolio. It's all done with a few swipes: this is the value of your portfolio, this is how it's performed, this is an asset allocation and geographical mix. It's a much more engaging way of looking at your portfolio than a paper report."

The 7IM platform, which has £7bn under administration, unusually has its own technology team designing the technical underlay, with a team of 25 engineers in Edinburgh, which Ms Smith said gives the company flexibility to change the platform when they need to. Pershing acts as the assets' custodian.

Mifid II is one example where technical adjustments need to be made, Ms Smith said, with platforms having to generate data, especially in relation to complex or non-complex products, and this affects advisers who need to have done the relevant appropriateness test if advising on a complex product.