Looking at the platform horizon

Al Ward, Head of Platform

In the final instalment of our conversation between Aviva’s Al Ward and Steve Nelson from The Lang Cat, the men discuss plans for the future.

Always room for improvement

Steve Nelson: The last time I looked, we still had an advice gap in the UK: we still have an inherent need to embrace innovation and move this sector forward. We need to open it up to new potential clients, so we're not just servicing the same people over and over again. On one hand, this is quite an exciting prospect. On the other hand, I think we need to refocus a little bit on who financial advice might be appropriate for.

With your future-gazing hat on, what do you think the demands are going to be in the short to medium term? Is it around sticking with what we know, or do we need to step out of our comfort zone?

Al Ward: The key marker for us is service, followed by understanding the data and what's important to advisers. Data is critical in all of this and we're looking to provide more data out to advisers and firms so that they can understand what's happening in their business. They can monitor and manage their own data, cutting it up in a way that suits them.

You know how it can be – you have a conversation with one firm and they want “abcd” and then you go back to another and they want “cdef”. You end up producing a report that meets a bit of both requirements, but doesn't really quite work. Enabling data puts it in the control of the firm, allowing them to choose the elements that they need for their reporting. This will be a big focus for us, along with process efficiency.

We receive feedback on improving journeys and we spend a big chunk of our resources on finding ways to improve them. As an example, we've got a drawdown journey that works really well and is  fully flexible, but there are nuances within that journey. We could have a firm saying, “This would work better for us if you could improve this part of the process.” Often, we're not really looking at making massive technology changes. Clearly the background work on opening up data is a big thing, but actually a lot of it is about chipping away and making the whole process more efficient.

If we can remove the need to manually enter information we also cut down on the amount of support we end up giving in the back end with OPS because that's where you get delays. One and done processes with straight-through journeys is really key so we’re always chipping away at those journeys to make them even more efficient and get them working really smoothly.

We’re also going to be focusing quite a bit on integrations. We know that advisers want to pick the bits of technology that suit their business across investment research, cash flow modelling across the platform and in the back office space. Our job is to then look at how to integrate these needs to make that ecosystem work better. I think the industry will move over time into facilitating better integration. It’s really about making sure advisers have the tools they need, that work for their client base and their business, rather than expecting them to work around a very static offering from providers.

2023 and beyond…

SN: So what's on the agenda for this year, for yourself and for Aviva? Anything specific we should be looking out for?

AW: I've got an idea around asset transfer in a box, so that no matter what each firm wants to do, they can pick it up and it will actually work for them. We'll provide the services that really help with that because it is time consuming. I think a lot of people aren't moving clients around the industry because it takes time and effort and it's too hard. We've got to make that easier.

The rest for us is making the processes more efficient and chipping away at all those experience points. We know what they are – we have a long list! They’re really important when it comes to moving the platform forward.

And then we also want to add to our product set. We have a really stable platform, which works very well, but there are some gaps. For example, we don't have a junior suite of products so we’ll look to fill that and then we'll look past that into 2024. We’re always looking ahead and with Consumer Duty coming in this summer I think the future could see quite a bit of change for this industry.