4 min read 5 Nov 21
It’s just over a year since Ascentric was acquired by M&G plc. Rebranding as M&G Wealth Platform, CEO Richard Denning assesses what the move means for the business and the advisers and investors who use it.
Investment platforms have gone through a concentrated period of changing ownership. I expect this trend to continue and with it the inevitable uncertainty in respect of what that means to the users of those platforms. I'd like to think the acquisition of the Ascentric platform by M&G plc has been of great benefit to our business and for the advisers we serve.
For M&G it made strong commercial sense as it seeks to build out its wealth management capabilities. For those of us who work at the newly named M&G Wealth Platform, the scale and strength of M&G plc and the combined parts of M&G Wealth give us stability and are key to enabling us to realise the ambitions and plans we have to serve advisers and investors better.
M&G plc is a profitable and well capitalised FTSE 100 company with close to £6 billion in revenues. Private equity money may lead to short-term thinking in the platform market which is no good for advisers and their clients future plans. Against this M&G is able to take a really long-term view and has made it clear to us in their capital support and planning about our strategic role in its wider business development.
M&G and its subsidiaries such as the Pru have been known for providing great support, functionality and technical financial expertise to advisers and end-investors. There is a huge focus and a lot of work taking place on the Pru side address and enhance service levels. We are committed to investing in a Wealth experience including the platform that is second to none in terms of quality, functionality, support and value for money.
M&G plc looks after £370 billion in assets under management globally. Its asset management capability also presents a massive potential to design and deliver compelling investment solutions at competitive cost on platform (while still keeping the platform wholly agnostic and open-architecture).
Finally, the group’s unequivocal and ambitious focus on sustainability – both operationally and the way it invests – can help the platform lead the way in meeting the growing environmental and social concerns of investors, advisers and regulators. This process has already begun with the new M&G Wealth website, which is expressly designed to reduce its carbon footprint and improve inclusivity.
Our focus since becoming part of M&G has been to improve our functionality and service, and to develop an even wider range of investments for advisers to access.
In 2021 we will have separated IT operations from the previous owner. This has also provided an opportunity to upgrade the technology stack that everything sits on (the platform underwent a full re-platform in 2019). Essentially this means that the physical hardware and architecture that the platform uses to operate is now faster, stronger and more robust. It’s also highly scalable: so, while our tech currently supports 90,000 customers and £17 billion in assets under administration – our continued investment in it means that will work just as powerfully for £100 billion in AUA and hundreds of thousands of customers.
More technical improvements lie ahead. Over the next 12 months, we aim to digitise all of our key investor journeys so almost everything a client or adviser needs to do via the platform can be done end-to-end online. We’re investing in deeper and better integration with adviser back office systems. This has been a thorough, driven process to be best in class with no stone left unturned. - we’ve identified no fewer than 230 small ways that we can reduce friction across the platform and create smoother, more efficient user journeys. We’re also expanding platform functionality with the introduction of online tools from the suite of Pru pension and financial-planning tools - this month, a new and improved CGT calculator with more to come.
But changes aren’t just on the platform. We now have bigger sales support teams to work with adviser firms and we’re also introducing a new Client Relationship Management system that will dramatically advance how we document and manage the workflow for interacting with firms.
Added to the security and stability of ownership that being part of M&G brings, all of this activity is designed to deliver the three things that we know advisers most want from us: great service, great value for money and the right investment solutions at a good price point.
It can be difficult to differentiate in a crowded platform market. But the most successful platforms are those that do what they say they are going to do – and do it really well. My ambition for the M&G Wealth Platform is to deliver on these three elements of service, value and investment choice, all underpinned by a drive for sustainability, and quite simply do it better than anyone else.
There’s plenty more work to do – but being part of M&G Wealth the M&G Wealth Platform puts us firmly on the path to achieving that goal.
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