Here, Mark Polson, principal at the Lang Cat consultancy and an expert on platforms, reflects on the last 12 months in the sector and examines the key issues facing the sector now and in the next few years.
Last year was an absolutely remarkable year in platforms.
I can’t think of another time which has made such a difference to this bit of the financial sector – which now runs over half a trillion pounds in customer assets – since RDR.
We saw market exits. Takeovers. Mergers. Floats. Awful experiences with re-platform- ing, and some that were less awful.
Massive waves of new regulation as a result of MiFID II and its UK nephew, PROD.
So, as we survey where we are in 2019 – and while we’re on it, where did January and February go? – it’s from a backdrop of platforms having had to deal with monumental amounts of change.
Whenever that happens, there’s always a lull, a licking of wounds, and then we gradually get back to some kind of equilibrium. It happened after RDR; it’ll happen after MiFID II.
So here are a few things I think we can expect.
First, I think we’ll see some proper propositional development from platforms this year. That’s not before time, of course.
Looking at the actual user experience of many advised platforms, I recognise a lot of stuff that’s been around since 2007 or so.
A decade in technology is like – well, actually I’m not sure what it’s like, but I do know that we would all have hoped to see much more in the way of (for example) proper integrations, user experience improvements, digital signatures and so on.
Much of the change in adviser firms this year will be around investment propositions and centralised retirement propositions – this will be one area where we see development from platforms as they race to try and win this space.
We have seen some interesting stuff from Seven IM and Standard Life; no doubt others will follow.
Second, I mentioned the problems some have had with re-platforming. I think – and I hope – we’ll see the two biggest casualties of this get back to something approaching a steady state from which they can build.
Aviva and Aegon are structurally important to the sector and we need them working properly.
Talking of re-platforming, the last big firm to go on the rollercoaster is Quilter.
We’ll see them gradually roll out their new FNZ-powered platform this year.
I’m really interested to see how this lands – I think Quilter comes from a different place to Aegon / Cofunds.
This is an edited version of Mr Polson's article, to read the full version and the rest of our five-page platform report, read the latest issue of Financial Planning Today magazine for free here.