The platform debate and why it’s not wise to put the cart before the horse

I’m off to Warrington soon to attend the Professional Adviser 360 North event on 17 October. The agenda looks interesting, with technology once again being a topic taking centre stage.

The great platform debate

Something else that’s being given high-level air-time is platforms and the importance of choosing the right one. There’s an illustrious panel of experts lined up to lead the debate and it promises to be a lively session that I’m looking forward to attending.

However, I can’t help but think that the industry encourages advisers to maybe spend rather too much time angsting over which platforms to choose when perhaps it should be their investment strategy that deserves to have more time focused on it. Taken this way round, the choice of platforms could become much easier, with those that can facilitate the investment propositions that will best meet the needs of clients being in the mix and the rest discarded. Controversial? I don’t think so, especially when you take governance into the mix.

Product governance

Interestingly, the topic that follows the Great Platform Debate at the 360 event is Product Governance and ex FCA stalwart Rory Percival will be on hand to outline why this is such a thorny issue for advisers (as if they need reminding!).

I’ve seen Rory speak at events before and I expect he will urge advisers to review their CIP/platform selection/advisory services to clients that historically have been segmented into different categories. His knowledge of what advisers do is likely to mean his clear message will be segment and review now or fall foul of the regulator.

The regulations that he’ll no doubt refer to involve PROD – Product Intervention and Product Governance Sourcebook. These are rules, not guidance, allowing the regulator to fine firms if it doesn’t feel TCF is being applied appropriately. We’ve had guidance for some time but now the FCA has a big stick.

With the regulator putting a spotlight on investment it’s even more important for advisers to spend time really understanding what they are doing with the way they manage investments and how they can perhaps do it better, both for the sake of their clients and for the future of their own businesses.