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Industry 'incredibly healthy' but provider challenges remain

Industry 'incredibly healthy' but provider challenges remain

The financial planning industry has been praised for emerging as "incredibly healthy" from this year's coronavirus crisis, but warnings have been sounded over lagging provider performance. 

Speaking at FTAdviser's webinar on simplifying financial planning for the 2020s today (December 8) guests predicted the sector had a bright future ahead of it despite the disruptions this year. 

Shelley McCarthy, managing director and chartered financial planner at Informed Choice, said: "I think despite everything which 2020 has thrown at us I feel very positive about the future of financial planning.

"We have been in a privileged position to continue to help clients and of course the pandemic has moved everything further forward in terms of technology."

But Ms McCarthy said whilst most providers were now accepting digitally signed documents, there was still room for improvement in this area. 

She added: "There is still for me a serious lack of integration between systems we use as financial planners, be it back office systems, cashflow forecasting, risk profiling.

"Also with the various providers we use, there is still scope to go further."

A survey of advisers conducted by Financial Adviser at the beginning of the pandemic uncovered signs of discontent with the service proposition offered by third parties amid the crisis. 

Although respondents did not reveal significant levels of frustration with how platforms and product providers had adapted to the change in working practices, more than half said companies had done no better than “moderately well”.

David Owen, wealth director at Lifetime Connect, hailed financial planning as being in an "incredibly healthy place".

Mr Owen said: "What we have discovered is we had the tools there already to help clients... and we weren't using them.

"There is still some stickiness in the process and that I would say is down to old fashioned providers. But everyone else has really stepped up to the mark.

"We are helping more clients because the capacity issue that might have been there before, where financial planners were complaining they could only deal with for example 100 clients, we have now discovered it might be 200 or even 300 clients by using Zoom and tools like Dynamic Planner." 

The advice industry has frequently been praised for its quick and efficient response to the pandemic as it unfolded earlier this year. 

But concerns have since been raised about the wellbeing of advisers themselves, with the Personal Finance Society last week pledging to support the wellbeing of staff in what could often be a "lonely" industry.  

rachel.mortimer@ft.com 

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