5 min read 2 Dec 20
It goes without saying that all our working lives have changed drastically during 2020. For our Business Development Managers (BDMs), this has meant swapping the road for a home office and their usual face-to-face adviser meetings for virtual chats. But this period of change has also opened up opportunities for adviser firms to focus on longer-term developments, including evolving their centralised investment or retirement proposition (CIP/ CRP) or looking closely at the total cost of ownership (TCO).
Since we’ve all been working from home I find myself speaking to the advisers we work with on a much more regular basis, which can only be a good thing in my view. Of course, there are the usual day-to-day queries and keeping advisers up to speed with our developments, which remain as important as ever. But I’m also having a lot of really interesting conversations with adviser firms that are using this period as an opportunity to get stuck into more strategic projects. It could be looking at how they construct their investment processes or their investment panel.
In some cases it might also be about working with Discretionary Fund Managers (DFMs) for the first time as they don’t have the time or want the risk of managing model portfolios on an advisory basis. Another route I see some bigger firms take is applying to get their own DFM permissions to keep the control and drive efficiency.
In many cases, a common driver of these projects has been bringing down TCO for their clients. For example, looking at whether running advisory models via a platform is the most cost-effective option going forward. Firms can underestimate the internal cost to run, execute and manage these strategies across a range of providers. Sometimes outsourcing this can be a cheaper option for the business. There’s a cost writing to clients to get permission, clicking the buttons and doing the research which is lost within the adviser’s ongoing fee.
Another example of bringing costs down could be using more ETFs or investment trusts. I appreciate it might not be for everyone, but there’s a perception these things can’t be run in a model portfolio on a platform due to poor execution. But, with a proper dealing desk these are viable ways to help reduce model portfolio charges. Institutional discretionary managers will be using these vehicles directly in their own nominee arrangements, so why shouldn’t advisers let their clients access these through a platform? Especially if these (and other) trades don’t incur a cost to the client, thanks to an all-in pricing model.
As I said before exchange traded assets in a model might not be for every client portfolio, but if I look at what happened to property funds; why not get that property exposure in a different form, without the liquidity risk?
Essentially, all of this is about advisers having the time to look under the bonnet and seek out opportunities to make things more efficient and/or less expensive for their clients.
So many of my conversations with advisers, earlier in the pandemic, were about their clients’ reaction – good or bad – to the market turmoil caused by Covid-19. That probably doesn’t come as a shock, but it has been really interesting to hear from advisers about how client sentiment has started to change in recent months.
Back when Covid first hit markets, we definitely saw a divide amongst clients. Some were extremely worried about the impact on their investments and wanted to get out of markets, while their advisers tried to calm their nerves. Others, however, were actually keen to get into the markets and take advantage of the volatility.
With this in mind, many of my conversations in recent months have been about our own in-house dealing desk. We’ve been a member of the London Stock Exchange since 2008, meaning we can deal in real time throughout the whole time the markets are open. We aren’t limited to placing bulk trades only once a day. This helps us to give advisers more control over exactly when they buy or sell, often generating significant savings for their clients from improvements we secure on bid offer spreads in the market.
Some advisers have been able to organise the more traditional (but new socially distanced) client meetings over recent months. While others have opted to host online client meetings and even implemented e-signature technology. And there has been a general sense that confidence is returning – compounded by the news of vaccines. Obviously this year and the pandemic has created a turbulent year.
We know that remote working has required you to evolve your business at a rapid pace. At the same time, we have also been evolving and working closely with you to make sure we fit around your new way of doing things. Good, open and continuous communication has been (and will continue to be) crucial to helping us provide the right support for your business. We are grateful for all the feedback and cooperation from you, which has helped us all so far. Thank you.
For more detail on how we’ve responded to Covid-19 and remote working, including the move to paperless processes and faster application processes, you can read this recent article from our head of digital transformation, Rachel Allen.
When out on the road speaking to advisers, our BDMs are often asked about our all-in pricing and how it compares. Find out more in our article published last month with some scenarios where having one platform price - with no additional charges, including no trading fees, model fees or exit fees - can bring tangible cost savings for your clients.
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