2 min read 20 Apr 22
Acquiring a platform can be a lot like buying a house. It can tick an awful lot of boxes (that’s why you chose to buy it, after all), but you may still need to invest a bit more capital to make it just the way you want it to be. That was certainly the case when M&G acquired Ascentric in September 2020.
The foundations of the platform are really good. This means that more of the investment can be spent on things that really add value to advisers and customers. The platform is truly open-architecture in terms of investment and wrapper choice. It has its own trading desk giving clients intra-day dealing in a large range of funds, listed securities and exchange-traded products. It has some fantastic people running it – and a lot of great quality advice firms using it.
Perhaps best of all, the platform has already replatformed – many others are still to complete this. That in itself is the equivalent of buying a house that’s had all its plumbing, electrics and insulation upgraded – and a nice new roof put on, to boot.
So Ascentric was already a pretty good platform. However, our goal is to make M&G Wealth Platform a great platform – and that needed investment. Over a two-year period that began last September, we’re implementing a multi-year multi-million pound investment programme to achieve that goal.
Here’s what we’re investing in:
This has included investing in servers that give us massive computing power, with the ability to handle more than double the number of clients and volume of assets we have now. We also have a much higher level of information security sitting in our data centres. Our new IT systems mean we can deliver faster, regular improvements to our customers.
Introducing a telephony system from Avaya has been a bit like swapping a Blackberry for an iPhone. We’ve gone through tax-year end with average call answering rates and call abandon rates that are 100% better than a year ago. The new system delivers powerful management information about call activity and makes it much easier to pass on enquiries and requests by allowing agents to see instantly if the relevant colleague is available.
To go one step further, we’ve combined the Avaya system with Salesforce CRM Cloud. This will allow our strong operations team to maintain an audit trail of every single client interaction, enabling agents to deliver a fully informed and therefore richer and proactive experience every time a client gets in contact.
By investing in the digitisation of key processes, including the introduction of DocuSign e-signature software, we’re taking new business processing online for our core wrappers. This will come in the Autumn and will include the introduction of drip feed drawdown as part of our retirement proposition. Behind the scenes we will continue to optimise our systems and processes to ensure excellent, resilient service.
We’ve quadrupled the size of our adoption team with deep platform experience. This gives us full resource to help any adviser firm that wants, for example, additional training or help running an online campaign. We also have a new quality assurance team and business readiness team. This ensures every product, service and solution we offer goes through robust quality checks – allowing us to get more things right first time.
And there is more to come behind the scenes. One of the big investments will be the creation of a digital hub allowing our platform to plug into any adviser back-office software system. That means paraplanners will be able set up new business, conduct fund switches and other platform tasks directly through Iress, Intelliflo or whatever back-office software their firm chooses to use. Firms will be able to take data feeds for their customer portals directly from M&G Wealth Platform without the need for any additional file uploading, and lots more. Quite simply, we ultimately want to be the leading platform for back-office integration and the easiest to do business with.
Adviser firms are already starting to experience some of the positive differences these changes are intended to deliver. For a start, most of our new business processing is now done within 24-48 hours (compared to Day 10 when the platform was acquired). We’re also delivering most key customer services within a 24-72 hour service level.
Market research from a number of sources shows advisers are reporting better service and more reliability. Our net promotor score and value indicators have risen. We’re also seeing positive trends on capability and technology ratings.
For us, all this activity is about building a platform that’s robust, dependable and entirely consistent every single time you use it. Our ambition is to provide one of the industry’s best platform experiences for both advisers and customers. That ambition doesn’t come cheap and takes time, but we believe the long-term value for money it ultimately delivers will be clear to see for our advisers and customers.
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