Steve Owen, Head of Elevate Platform Proposition, shares the questions advisers ask most often when selecting a new platform.
Hopefully by the time you're reading this - and all publishing deadlines have been met - I'm on my summer holiday. So, in keeping with the theme for my previous two blogs, and just ahead of my summer break, I've been pondering the sorts of questions advisers generally ask me when I speak to them.
As you'll have hopefully seen from my previous blogs, one of the aspects of my job that I love the most is getting to speak to advisers to understand their business models and what it is they want from a platform.
One area I take pride in, and which I believe puts our industry in a strong position, is the importance that advisers place on delivering excellent outcomes for their clients. The advisers I speak to are looking at how platforms can put them into a position to serve those long-term client needs moving forward.
The fundamental question advisers want answered is 'How does your platform meet the needs of my clients and meet my due diligence requirements?' After that, the questions become potentially quite varied, and change depending on the adviser's particular business model or the specific proposition they want for their clients.
Here are the most popular questions that come up time and time again:
1. How well does your platform work?
The first question advisers ask is to check that Elevate takes care of the basics. They ask 'Does it work? Does it do what you say it does? Is it robust? Does it fit with my operating model?'
2. What investment solutions are available?
At the next level, advisers start asking about the range of investment solutions offered. They want to know 'Does your platform support the investment proposition that we look at for our clients?' They'll also ask 'What is the cost of that investment component or that solution, and how does that stack up when looking at the total cost of the investments on the platform?'
3. How committed are you to the platform?
Another key area of questioning is around our commitment to the market and - because of the importance of long-term relationships - how the platform can be brought into the advisers' long-term relationship with their clients. Advisers want to understand - and be sure - that the platform isn't going to just be here tomorrow or next year, but that it'll be here for many years to come.
4. Will this platform support the particular needs of my business?
As conversation progresses, questions can become much more nuanced. Depending on the types of adviser businesses, the availability of tax wrappers is often important. Advisers want to learn if the platform is designed to support account structures for core financial planning, including account structures such as sole or joint names, tax wrappers like ISAs and pensions, and whether it can hold unwrapped investments in a general investment account (GIA). Some advisers also ask about other tax wrappers - some of which can become a bit more esoteric, like third party GIAs and trust accounts.
5. Is the platform efficient and easy to use?
No one has time to pore over manuals, and advisers want to be sure the platform will be easy to use. What's generally meant by this is 'How will your platform help with tax reporting, general client performance reporting, investment performance reporting, and money in and out?' It also means 'Will this make it easier for me to handle the ongoing client review process? Will it simplify the process of adding new business?' But I think the deeper point underlying all these questions, and underlining how much advisers care about client outcomes, is 'How is your platform helping to provide the ongoing service proposition for my clients?'
A few concluding thoughts...
These questions - although generic and I'm sure very familiar to a number of you - are all issues that I've found come up again and again.
One point I think is important to make, and something that I've discovered in the ten plus years that I've been involved in platforms, and specifically Elevate, is that adviser businesses are very much like people. They're all individual, with their own preferences, biases and beliefs. So, while at a macro level, the similarities between adviser businesses are overwhelming, the more we get into the details, the more unique they become.
So I think when advisers are looking to use a platform, whether they plan to use it on an occasional basis or fully adopt and integrate it into their business, that it's important to make sure the platform specifics align with what the adviser is trying to achieve for his or her clients. It's important that there be compatibility between the adviser and the platform provider and shared organisational values, so everyone is working together to support delivery of excellent outcomes for clients.
I propose not to give any specific answers to these questions. But if you'd like to know more about why I believe Elevate is a brilliant proposition and how Elevate is helping a large number of adviser businesses to meet the needs of their clients, please take a look at our website or make contact with your account manager who will be very happy to answer your own questions, whether or not they fit into the categories I've shared here.
To learn more about what Elevate offers, and how it can help you to fulfil your business goals and help support your proposition, please visit our Elevate website.
The value of investments can go down as well as up and could be worth less than originally invested.
The views expressed in this blog should not be regarded as financial advice.
Steve Owen, Head of Elevate Platform Proposition