Technology can be cool but why is it not more useful?

Over the many years we have been involved in providing wealth management products (personally dating as far back as 2002) and I suppose honestly, to the early 90s with systems to deal with old LAUTRO rules in the UK, I have been surprised at how few advancements there have been in supporting the adviser community. Yes, today we have such a wide variety of solutions including investment x-ray (to look through fund risks), portfolio modelling tools, robo-advice, document management and many other areas of what I suppose could be called middle office technology. Yes, platforms too have provided a better way to get a holistic view of a client’s portfolio across different tax wrappers. Gamification has brought some interesting mobile functionality to help investment selection for direct investors especially for things like crypto-assets. All good and interesting and certainly advancements have been made. What is missing then?

In our view, the biggest pain points in the adviser business are customer take-on and being paid fees correctly and timely (if you like, the front and back end of the process). We have heard too many unfortunate stories of SIPP clients who select funds, submit applications only to find that weeks later the particular funds investment had been removed from an eligibility list; the adviser has to redo the application with the commensurate frustration and loss of face. How is it possible that at the point of advice, an adviser does not have a definitive list of eligible investments, current (or most recent) price and can confirm at that time what is available or not? Is it really acceptable that providers can change purport to offer any kind of valuable service when the reality is they do nothing to deliver a service to the most important stakeholders, the advisers?

More importantly, is the correct and timely payment of fees. How is it possible that advisers still tolerate inefficient and time-consuming systems to get reconciliation of their client’s positions and the fees which are due under any specific wrapper or investment. Is it that the fee-based model has totally removed any obligation for product providers to provide any support to advisers? We firmly believe that efficiency and accuracy are cornerstones of good commercial relationships and advisers should not tolerate product providers who do not invest in both transparency and ease of use.
Technology which automates the fee payment process (both for the manufacturers and the advisers) is crucial and should be number one on a due diligence list when assessing the capabilities of manufacturers. Fees are the lifeblood of the business; providers should invest as much in ensuring they have an efficient and accurate solution for the advisers as much as for their own portfolio management. This includes not only timely and accurate payment solutions but also transparency and clear information flows. The internet delivers so much to us in this way across so many different channels that advisers should expect no less.

Bedford Row Capital and its advisers have the benefit of access to Bondstream™; a state of the art, adviser, manufacturer and transaction management system. The daily reconciliation of investments and associated impact on fees is available real-time in a cloud-based solution. Bondstream™ supports funds as well as structured products and creates a commercial advantage for the advisers who use the system; painless, accurate and transparent fee and production information. This includes valuations, product availability and automation at the back end to support multiple manufacturers.

Everyone likes to talk about Blockchain. Yes, Bondstream includes blockchain. As an old school tech guy, my response is “so what”. Can advisers be paid every week with 100% accuracy? Yes. That is what technology is for. Serve your customers and build relationships; it actually isn’t that hard.

For further information contact:
Christoph Kruecken — chris@bedfordrowcapital.com

This article was first published in the FEIFA Members’ Magazine, August 2021

Structuring and Issuance of Eurobonds. Liquidity and Asset backed. AIFMD exempt solutions for distribution of yield products. Arranger and Lead Manager.