2016 Platform Benchmarking & Competitive Analysis Report: Platform innovation booming following years of focus on compliance


King Loong Cho

Leading research firm Investment Trends yesterday released its 2016 Platform Benchmarking & Competitive Analysis Report, an in-depth study of the investment platforms used by Australia’s financial planners.

The report covers 526 key characteristics of each platform and its service offering, providing a unique insight into their competitive standing and emerging trends across the industry.

Key highlights include:

  • Platform innovation is booming following years of focus on compliance
  • The client portal has become a key battleground
  • netwealth maintains top spot in overall platform functionality

Platform innovation is booming following years of compliance

Between 2013 and 2015, the platform industry had been increasingly devoting their development spend to compliance, in line with ongoing regulatory changes, to the extent where the majority of their development budget was consumed by compliance costs. This trend reversed in 2016, with platform providers increasing their spend on developing new functionality for planners and their clients.

“After two years of hibernation and a focus on compliance, platform innovation has exploded in 2016,” said Investment Trends Senior Analyst King Loong Choi. “Our latest competitive analysis of the platform industry found platform providers’ development efforts have been centred around two themes: improving planner efficiency and raising client engagement.”

OneVue was the platform which made the greatest advances in functionality, including a full dashboard refresh to enhance planners’ efficiency by providing them with easier access to actionable information about their business and clients. The dashboard can be customised by users, giving planners the flexibility to amend the platform experience to best cater to their needs.

netwealth has started pre-populating their application forms with data from XPLAN, while HUB24 built the ability to pre-populate applications from any system. HUB24’s functionality has already been turned on with a one dealer groups’ internal software, with more planning software providers in the pipeline.

“Having to re-key data which exist in one source to multiple other sources has long been a key technology gap for planners,” said Choi. “netwealth and HUB24 both taken steps to alleviate a key burden at a time where planners demand efficiency.”

“Platform providers can remain competitive in the current environment by addressing planners’ key challenges,” said Choi. “Aside from improving planner efficiency, providers can also better support planners with their client engagement efforts.”

The client portal has become a key battleground

The client portal is a crucial part of the client engagement experience, which in turn, is a key driver of client retention. The platform industry has recognised this, with many providers making enhancements to the client portal by broadening the functionality available and improving the experience for clients.

netwealth, HUB24 and OneVue provide planner clients the richest feature set, though competition remains intense.

“There is room for providers to further enhance their client portal offerings,” said Choi. “Platform providers can further differentiate their offerings through the level of investment research available, transactions capabilities, adviser permissions, and navigation & layout.”

“Ease of access is another important aspect of client portals,” said Choi. “Mobile apps can help facilitate this, but only three of the 19 platforms we reviewed provide this to planner clients – AMP, HUB24 and Macquarie.”

netwealth maintains top spot in overall platform functionality

Among full-function platforms (those supporting planners advising on a wide range of investments, including direct equities), netwealth maintained its number one position in terms of overall functionality. HUB24 performed strongly in 2016, climbing to second place. The five top-ranking full-function platforms were:

  1. 1. netwealth
  2. HUB24
  3. Colonial First State FirstWrap
  4. Asgard eWRAP
  5. Macquarie Wrap (including Perpetual Private Wrap)

netwealth also ranked first for transaction tools, decision support tools and online business management tools. It also received the award for best client portal. Notable enhancements by netwealth in 2016 include:

  • Introduction of international direct shares trading
  • Partnering with TipRanks to expand the investment research available
  • Continued enhancements to its managed accounts offering
  • Pre-population of application forms with XPLAN data
  • Introduction of online chat facility to interact with support staff
  • Improvements to client and business reporting
  • Updated client portal with greater functionality and a new look and feel
  • Continued enhancements to the user interface

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