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Advisers switch platforms amid pandemic

New research has revealed Australia's financial advisers switched between various investment platforms in their search for better service and support in the wake of the Royal Commission and COVID-19 pandemic.

Investment Trends' 2020 Planner Technology Report found that 29% of financial advisers stopped placing new business on a platform in the past year, with the average adviser using 2.6 platforms each (up from 2.3 in 2018 and 2.1 in 2019).

"Platform relationships are being challenged by the twin headwinds of the Royal Commission and the global pandemic," Investment Trends research director Recep Peker said.

"Not only has platform switching reached a post-GFC high, planners are also broadening the range of platforms they use.

"In the face of pandemic-induced market volatility, financial planners are relying heavily on platforms for high quality service and support, with minimised service disruptions."

Despite the rise in platform switching, Investment Trends found that 77% of advisers were generally satisfied with the support provided by platforms during the COVID-19 crisis.

However, 23% of those surveyed said they were dissatisfied, demonstrating there is still room for improvement.

Nonetheless, the COVID-19 crisis has kick started a digital revolution in advice, transforming the way advisers communicate with their clients and accelerating their adoption of digital tools.

"Since the start of the lockdown in early March, planners have significantly expanded their use of online meetings, email campaigns, digital signature tools and social media management systems," Peker explains.

"Whether by choice or circumstance, planners are adapting their technology stack during these unprecedented times."

The report found that 82% of financial advisers now believe the platforms and advice software they use to be strategically important to the success of their business.

Meanwhile, a third do not believe this same software effectively helps them to demonstrate value to clients, while more than a third (38%) do not believe platforms or advice software helps boost efficiency.

"Planners trust their technology providers to help them improve the quality of their advice delivery, and providers can do more to satisfy their high expectations," Peker said.

"A key first step is improving the online client-facing capabilities available to planners and their clients.

"For instance, planners currently give just 40% of their total client base access to an online portal, but they want to expand this capability to more clients, with 44% preferring all their clients to have online portal access."

The report found Netwealth continues to lead the platform pack, followed by HUB24 in second spot. CFS First Choice, BT Panorama and Macquarie Wrap also make the top five.

In terms of advice software, AdviserLogic took out the top gong for the fifth consecutive year, followed by Midwinter and Xplan.

Despite fallout from the Royal Commission and COVID-19, overall satisfaction with platforms and advice software providers increased for the first time since 2014, Peker said.

"While great news for the industry, many satisfaction gaps persist in both parts of the value chain," he said.

"To stand out, providers need to identify and refine the service areas that matter most to their users."

Read more: COVID-19Royal CommissionInvestment TrendsRecep PekerAdviserLogicBT PanoramaCFS First ChoiceMacquarie WrapMidwinterNetwealthXplan
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