Actively investing in Wrap and Elevate

Noel Butwell, CEO Adviser Platforms, outlines what happens next following the update on our strategic partnership with Phoenix and reflects on a new era for our platforms.

Yesterday, we (Standard Life Aberdeen) shared the news that together with Phoenix Group (Phoenix), we have agreed to simplify our strategic partnership.

We always aim to give you advance notice of announcements that will impact you and your clients where we can. Unfortunately, due to the market sensitivity surrounding this agreement we were not able to do so on this occasion. You can read a summary of the changes on our website along with a supporting Q&A.

Understandably, the media headlines so far have focused on the sale of the “Standard Life” brand. It’s a brand you’ve partnered with for many years, the one we launched Wrap under nearly 15 years ago and welcomed Elevate to in 2016. I personally have a long standing connection to the brand, having proudly represented it for 17 years. “Standard Life” is well recognised in the UK, with a long history, and many of you may be wondering why we have decided selling the brand is the right thing to do.

Since 2018, when Phoenix began using the brand under license as part of our strategic partnership, the line between Standard Life Aberdeen and Phoenix has not been easy for clients and customers to navigate. The changes we’ve announced are a step towards making the delineation crystal clear. They also enable Standard Life Aberdeen to move forward with a sharp focus on the market leading platforms Wrap and Elevate, our UK savings and wealth businesses and the broader global asset management business.

You choose to trust us with your client’s investments because of our robust approach to governance, money handling and data security; the choice and flexibility our solutions offer your clients; and because you can expect us to deliver a high quality service. The brand name of our platforms will change in time. The expertise and dedication of the teams that work every day to meet your expectations does not.

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A key reason for choosing one of our platforms is the financial backing of Standard Life Aberdeen. Wrap and Elevate are the only AKG ‘A rated’ platforms in the market, evidencing the resources and capital available to support our platform business as it grows. Continued investment in Wrap and Elevate is key to Standard Life Aberdeen’s strategic growth and we have strong ambitions to build on the market-leading position our platforms hold today.

Standard Life Aberdeen has initiated a branding review across the group, the outcome of which will be announced later this year. I’m very much looking forward to sharing our new brand name soon. We’ll make sure you have everything you need to make the new name work for your business, including a clear transition timeline and positioning for conversations with your clients.

The changes we announced yesterday have other direct benefits for you and your clients too:

  • We’re targeting the end of Q3 2021 to remove links with Phoenix and as a result of this simplification we'll achieve greater efficiencies when serving you and your clients
  • Full control of systems and processes will allow us to accelerate change delivery and introduce enhanced features quicker, in response to your feedback
  • The purchase of the Wrap SIPP and Onshore Bond from Phoenix means we’ll be able to drive product change easily, in particular we'll be enhancing our pension offering for the benefit of your clients later this year
  • Platform and product due diligence can be undertaken on a single provider, making fulfilling due diligence requirements easier for you

You’ll get plenty of notice ahead of these changes being implemented. There will also be comprehensive support to help your business prepare for them. We are fully committed to supporting you and your clients through change and ensuring a smooth transition. Protecting the levels of service you expect from us and minimising disruption to your business is always a priority for my team.

Around this time last year I made four commitments to you. One of these was that we will ‘aim to be right first time’ - continually investing to improve our service and processes. We are currently focussed on service more than ever, supporting your businesses though the tax year end and doing everything we can to make working with us as quick and easy as possible. I know that in some areas your expectations of us are not being met so we are working hard to address this. We’ve already improved our Wrap drawdown forms with data validation at each step, introduced a dedicated progress update line, expanded our range of help guides and can now accept more digital signatures. A focus area for us is improved speed to answer across all of our lines and we expect you'll see an improvement by the end of next month.

Beyond this, we are stepping up the pace of strategic change under our new Platform Experience Programme. Through the modernisation of our solutions, continuous service improvements and streamlining of systems and processes, our aim is to make it as easy as possible for you to get what you need from us, when you need it and in a way that works for your business. Last year, we delivered a new client portal on Wrap, better client reporting, SMA on Elevate and launched the Drawdown Price Lock, the first of its kind in the UK. This year you can expect an even more extensive range of enhancements including secure email, more client reporting improvements, fully online drawdown capability, a new Adviser Portal on Wrap with quick and intuitive journeys and wider acceptance of digital signatures. I’ll be sharing the detail of our plans over the coming weeks including how we’ll roll out the enhancements ensuring that we do it in a way that is manageable for your business.

I appreciate that these changes will result in a number questions from your clients so I hope I have addressed some of the questions you have and clarified what happens next. I also hope you feel reassured that as we enter this new era for our platforms there are exciting plans in place with momentum behind them and full commitment to delivery.

If you have anything you’d like to discuss further please reach out to your usual contact.

Thank you for your ongoing support and I will be in touch again soon.

 

The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice.

Noel Butwell

Chief Executive Officer - Adviser Platforms

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