Investment Trends' latest look at the platforms space has seen HUB24 just inch out Netwealth for the lead when it comes to overall functionality.
The 2020 Platform Benchmarking & Competitive Analysis Report sees HUB24 rank first for platform functionality with a total score of 89%, just beating Netwealth on 88.9%.
Investment Trends said HUB24 scored highly across all six metrics measured, while Netwealth scored highly across four of the six.
"The narrow difference in overall platform functionality scores highlights the intense competition between the leading platforms, many of which have made meaningful refinements to their product offering, reporting, decision support tools and integration in the last 12 months," Investment Trends' associate research director King Loong Choi said.
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Rounding out the top five are Praemium (84.8%), BT Panorama (82.4%) and Macquarie Wrap (76.5%).
The research house said it was clear this year that platforms are responding to the needs of financial advisers with functionality improvements, namely the move to paperless, fully digital processes.
"In the last 12 months alone, HUB24 and MLC MasterKey have incorporated electronic ID verification services to automate KYC checks and super withdrawals, while Praemium and CFS FirstChoice launched tools for advisers to electronically send documents to clients for digital acceptance," Choi said.
"Improvements that reduce admin friction and help foster greater client engagement will be increasingly sought after by advisers and their clients, as more embrace end-to-end digital solutions."
Advisers also considered consolidated reporting as a key focus area for platforms to provide clients with a holistic view of their wealth.
The analysis found non-custodial functionality varies significantly across platforms, with Investment Trends saying Praemium's Virtual Managed Account (VMA) is currently the most comprehensive solution.
"Other platforms are also providing strong competition, with HUB24's HUBConnect making strides to improve their client app experience, while BT Panorama are providing SMSF trustees with a view of their external assets from their connected accounting software," Investment Trends said.
Choi said many platforms recognise the need to expand functionality to integrate non-custodial assets.
"We expect to see more innovative developments as different platforms take different approaches to deliver non-custodial asset solutions," said Choi.