Firing line  

Defaqto can move forward and innovate

Defaqto can move forward and innovate

Zahid Bilgrami has an unusual background for someone who is chief executive of Defaqto, the data and research company.

He used to run mergers and acquisitions at Balfour Beatty, the civil engineering giant with a market capitalisation of £1.7bn, and was about to make a move to another engineering company, but got caught up in the global financial crisis of 2008-09, and found himself at Defaqto instead.

However, there are many advantages of working at a smaller company, he says – Defaqto was valued at £74m when sold last year to SimplyBiz.

In a bigger company: “You’re just primarily influencing people, just pushing people in the right direction.

“In a smaller organisation you can make decisions and you can move forward with a lot of confidence. You may get it wrong but you can move forward and innovate.”

Ratings

Defaqto is known by financial advisers as one of several companies that rates funds, and provides analytical data that is helpful in product research.

It is used by 8,500 advisers and rates more than 21,000 products and funds.

It also offers a service to consumers, by giving a star rating to a range of products, including bank accounts and insurance products.

It has also been trying to make itself more useful by offering advisers a more comprehensive service – Engage – to advisers, providing a one-stop shop for a lot of their adviser/client relationship needs, from risk profiling, research recommendations and suitability reporting.

Mr Bilgrami says: “They need to follow certain steps and they need to go to a bunch of websites, and we allow them to do it all in one place.

“Previously, advisers may have gone to one place to do their risk profiling, then ask: how do I decide which share classes are good value for money to use for that particular client? Then they need to go off a create a suitability report.”

The whole aim of the software is “to make sure that the picture fits the client best”, after extracting the client’s data.

But Defaqto is probably best known for its rating tools.

It has a star-rating service for consumers, its diamond rating service, which assesses funds and risk ratings, both for advisers, as well as a service rating.

Behind the scenes, there is a team of 60 analysts and researchers who rate products, assessing them on their particular attributes.

Defaqto is in competition with the likes of Morningstar, but Defaqto also tries to distinguish itself by having its own process, different from its rivals. 

Mr Bilgrami says: “When it comes to the risk rating of funds, we do it differently to others.

“When you think about a particular fund, many people look at an asset allocation, and at what level of risk that fund is.