17 Nov 2017 New kids on the block in the platform world
After almost two decades of the market being dominated by three or four technology providers, there are several new platform technologies emerging. There’s been a lot of noise about Hubwise and Embark, but Seccl will soon be out there drumming up business too. All of them have the potential to disrupt the platform market. Their competitive advantage lies in the fact that they provide pared down, focused propositions that have none of the legacy technology and inefficiencies in existing technologies.
Despite the recent attention, Hubwise has been around for some time — we first wrote about them five years ago in Q312. At that time, Hubwise planned to target platforms that (in their words) had legacy technology and pieced-together software. The team behind Hubwise believed platforms would not be price competitive in the post-RDR environment. Back then, Hubwise expected to break even at below £1bn and to grow to £10bn in five to ten years. Fast forward five years and it hasn’t quite got there yet.
In true start-up style, Hubwise pivoted its proposition to find a solution that would strike a chord with advisers and wealth managers. It has recently launched a white-labelled investment platform, which allows advisers to combine trading, administration and custody in one proposition. Called Portfolio, the proposition is designed to ‘simplify and de-risk’ advisers and wealth managers’ operating models. What that means in practice is a joint operation. Hubwise charges a fee and takes care of the operational aspects, but it is the adviser/wealth manager who owns the platform.
The Embark Group also embarked on a transformation that saw it acquire several parts of the value chain including an independent national advice firm, the failed Avalon platform, a number of sipp and pension specialists and research services for advisers (the Adviser Centre, Discus and Scopic) — essentially an end-to-end adviser solution. It then brought in FNZ to join up and showcase the different parts.
In addition, BlackRock is a major partner and will be providing model portfolios for the wrap. The wrap was launched in November to the wider advice market, having focused until now on migrating Avalon and other proprietary assets.
What stands out about Embark is its refreshing focus on mass-affluent clients, in other words, consumers with portfolios of between £30k to £150k. It is a market that many advisers have felt unable to support because it is too costly for both them and clients. However, Embark believes that the fully automated and STP wrap and competitive pricing (ISAs, JISAs and GIAs charged at 15bps and pensions tiering from 25bps to 15bps), will keep advice costs down and empower advisers to be more competitive in the mass-affluent arena.
Chris Smeaton, Head of Marketing at Embark, said “Until now advisers have asked themselves why they should bother changing, but we believe this pricing is disruptive and pretty much half what other platforms charge. We have the price, the size, the credibility and FNZ. We’re a compelling combination for advisers.”
Seccl is the brainchild of Hugo Thorman and David Harvey, the team behind Ascentric before it was sold to Royal London. It competes directly with Hubwise and like Hubwise plans to disrupt retail wealth management by providing two propositions — enterprise software as a service and outsourced custody.
The Seccl team believes it can combat inefficiencies with its architecture that is designed for constant change. According to the team, as well as being cloud-based, the technology uses less code, fewer developers and is developed using an agile methodology and framework. In addition, it is developing a suite of APIs that will integrate with third-party systems and remove friction costs that can add several bps to platform overheads.
Last but not least, Seccl’s modular approach allows wealth managers to select from six technology and two custody modules to build their perfect platform solution. A large adviser firm, for example, may add all or most of the modules, while a discretionary stockbroker may only want Portfolio and Core and perhaps the portals.
Seccl has still to obtain its permissions but hopes to have done this by January 2018.
Interesting times ahead in the platform world.