We talk to Simon Richards, director at Newcastle-based Bailey Richards, about how the business uses platforms to support its client service proposition and improve business efficiency
Over the past eight years our preferred platform of choice has been Old Mutual Wealth (OMW) although we also use Transact and Standard Life Wrap. We initially used Transact for all clients whose needs we had assessed would suit the use of a wrap platform, however when we started working with Clever Adviser Technology and began using their system, we found OMW’s platform was a better fit. This system allows us to monitor on a regular basis the funds held within a portfolio and switch to another when we see under performance. OMW allowed us to perform bulk switching without charging the client for switches, whereas Transact did charge. We have found OMW’s system very easy to use. It is clear and concise and allows us to manage business processing from start to finish with great ease. We were able to create a range of portfolios to facilitate our clients’ requirements with varying risk ratings. The uscan reporting facility can show the effects of changes made to funds on past performance reports of the portfolio we have chosen. i.e. it takes into account the fund switches performed when providing the overall performance.
We are currently developing a relationship with a DFM called 8AM Global which allows our clients to still take advantage of the Active fund monitoring system we have, but without the need to authorise fund switches up front. We are using the Standard Life and Transact Platform for this system as OMW do not currently facilitate this.
It benefits clients and our business
Within our investment and pension business, we place around 90% onto platforms. It allows us to carry out any work on a client’s plan with ease, including obtaining live valuations, fund switching and performance reports. It also allows our clients to log in and obtain valuations without having to wait for annual statements or to come to us for them, so they feel they are engaged with their money on as regular a basis as they want to be.
There are challenges
With OMW, some of the main challenges we have found relate to paperwork. Some forms are still required as original versions whereas others can be scanned over to them. They tend to be very rigid on cut-off dates for clients wishing to make withdrawals. They still also require various forms to be signed by our clients when we are submitting new business, whereas other platform providers – like Standard Life – only require one form to be signed and it covers pretty much everything the client will need to do including making future withdrawals. They can take instruction from us by phone and the client can have their funds within a few days, whereas with OMW this process can take around 2/3 weeks.
Overall though, our experience of dealing with platform providers has been a successful and positive one. They have a good telephone teams available for issues or queries and we find we get problems sorted fairly quickly.
When it comes to due diligence, we keep up to date with most platform providers services and capabilities on an annual basis. This is to ensure that we are using the ones most suited to our business and clients’ needs, hence bringing on board Standard Life Wrap just last year. When doing so, the main factors we consider are those which suit our business model of actively managing our clients’ pensions and investments, allowing bulk fund switching for example. We review our platform due diligence annually to check their capabilities, charging structures and any new advances in their technology which would benefit our business.
Integration is key
Our main investment proposition is to actively manage our clients’ pension and investment portfolios. Many IFAs will recommend funds for their clients at outset and then review their performance on an annual basis. Our technology allows us to monitor our clients’ fund performance monthly, which means if they hold a fund that is underperforming, our technology will see it and then recommend to sell and buy an alternative fund in the same sector which is performing better. We find our clients are very happy with the service they get and the attention we give to their money. The platforms also assist us in delivering our ongoing client service. This needs to be demonstrated and repeatable in process to justify to the client – and potentially the FCA – in order to reassure and remind clients of the value of our service for which they are paying an annual fee.
A few words of advice
If I had to give any advice to other advisers considering platforms, it’s that no one platform will do everything you want in the way you want it done. Therefore, there has to be some compromise within the arrangement. My suggestion is to list your top 5 requirements and choose more than one platform to use alongside each other. From my experience, using platforms has transformed our business. It has allowed me and my team to deliver an even greater client experience which in turn has assisted with the retention of and acquisition of more and more clients enabling our business to grow.
About Simon Richards
Having been involved in the financial services sector since 1990 as a tied adviser and IFA, Simon set up Bailey Richards in 2008.
The business provides retirement advice for people who are “near” or “at” retirement. Although based out of the North East, the firm has clients all over the UK. There are 3 advisers and 5 support staff to ensure clients always have someone they can contact. The business has recently been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2018 Investment Life & Pensions Moneyfacts Awards in the “Retirement Adviser of the Year” category.
Away from work, Simon is a keen golfer and enjoys spending time in Spain with his wife, daughter and friends.