Platforms fast-track digitalisation of key processes to support financial advisers in a socially distanced world


King Loong Choi

Leading research firm Investment Trends has launched its 2020 Platform Benchmarking & Competitive Analysis Report, an in-depth study of investment platforms used by Australia’s financial advisers and their clients.

Digitalisation of key processes was a key focus area for platforms, according to the latest report now in its 17th year.

The Report found that platforms are responding to calls from financial advisers to better support their socially distanced advice processes, with notable functionality improvements around electronic signatures and digital acceptance tools.

“The platform industry continues to drive innovation and functionality improvements from the back-end to front-end, which is especially vital as financial advisers and their clients adjust to a social distanced way of living. The move to a paperless, fully-digital end-to-end process is fast becoming a reality,” said King Loong Choi, Associate Research Director at Investment Trends.

Choi added that, “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. 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.”

For overall platform functionality ranking, HUB24 has marginally overtaken Netwealth for top spot, with consistently strong results across all six assessed categories. In a close second position, Netwealth continued to perform strongly in four out of six categories. Industry wide, the five top-ranking full-function platforms are:

  1. HUB24 (overall score of 89.0%)
  2. Netwealth (88.9%)
  3. Praemium (84.8%)
  4. BT Panorama (82.4%)
  5. Macquarie Wrap (76.5%)

“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,” said Choi.

Advisers also considered consolidated reporting as a key focus area for platforms – which involves aggregating client data from custodial and non-custodial assets into a single source, ultimately providing clients with a holistic view of their total wealth.

Non-custodial functionality varies markedly across platforms, with Praemium’s Virtual Managed Account (VMA) 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.

“Platforms are fundamentally custodial solutions, but many recognise the need to expand their 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.

About the report

The Investment Trends 2020 Platform Benchmarking & Competitive Analysis Report is based on detailed analyst reviews comparing 15 leading wrap platforms and master trusts across 6 categories of their service offerings, encompassing 538 key criteria.

Functional items are given weightings to reflect their relative importance to advisers, based on Investment Trends’ ongoing annual Planner reports, which are detailed quantitative surveys that track adviser’ platform and product preferences.

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