Lots to discuss at MMI Harrogate

Last week my colleague, Bruce Ely-Johnston, and I attended the Money Marketing Interactive event in Harrogate. The agenda covered a broad range of topics including consolidating assets, conflicts of interests, fee structures, remote working and matching clients to platforms, plus a host of other subjects – quite a lot to pack into one day!

Perhaps because there was so much going on it was difficult to pinpoint any real consensus across the topics. This may be because the advisers who attended all had different models and different approaches to running their businesses.

Technology as an enabler, not a substitute, for face-to-face

One element that did stand out for us was something that came out from the session on remote working, which was very heavily focused around technology and how it is removing the need for face-to-face meetings with clients. The approach to the session seemed to be that advisers actually want to remove the need to meet clients personally, although the adviser on the panel was very clear that he was using the technology available to enhance his client meetings (which also included via skype and Zoom, so face-to-face but in a virtual sense, which seemed rather at odds with how the technology providers positioned their take on the discussion). The response from the advisers in the room seemed to be that they regard technology as a way to help them manage the tasks that could keep them away from seeing clients, with good use of technology actually freeing up time so they can have more meetings. This is certainly something that we at PortfolioMetrix support and that our own adviser partners tell us they are able to achieve.

Making life easier for who?

On the issue of consolidating assets, it was a bit surprising (and a little disappointing) to find the discussion skewed towards making life easy for advisers by choosing to move clients’ assets to platforms, with little focus on the investment needs of individual clients. Perhaps this is because advisers can feel overwhelmed by the thought of having to move legacy clients so bulk decisions can appear to be the best option. This doesn’t have to be the case. Any adviser concerned about providing their clients with a more tailored investment service without over-stretching their own workload should speak to us. We have solutions that make it easy to avoid the potential ‘shoe-horning’ that consolidation can create. While there’s nothing wrong in driving efficiencies within a business and creating more value as a result, surely the investment proposition should drive the decisions following the tax planning and life coaching, rather than a platform decision coming first?

Fee structures

Fee structures was a topic where there was lively discussion. Percentage based fees linked to asset management was clearly the most popular for the majority of advisers at the event but this can be difficult to support if assets are consolidated onto a platform which automatically manages the investment. Our view is that advisers need to have tools that enable them to stay central to the investment strategy, with the ability to tailor portfolios to differing client needs while out-sourcing the day-to-day investment management to experts who specialise in looking after their clients’ interests.

Overall, it was an interesting event that I’m sure those advisers and support staff attending will have found informative. There were certainly enough industry representatives on hand to help them!