This week the lang cat's Mark Polson takes a look at the next product in Steve Bee's growing range - JargonFreeBenefits.
With the minds of the industry firmly on RDR, financial planning, platforms and whatnot, it is easy to overlook the group market and the evolving technology propositions over that side of the fence.
Most of the running in the corporate space – at least in terms of noise – is at the very large end of the market, with fully-loaded corporate wrap propositions gobbling up tens of millions of pounds in development spend.
Our subject this week, though, wants to bring the tools and kit aimed at the big boys right down to the SME space and to the advisers serving those businesses. With group business remaining a major source of revenue for many IFAs, Paradigm believes it has spotted a key opportunity and is going directly at it.
Mark Polson takes a look at the next product in Steve Bee’s growing range
Earlier this year, Paradigm launched a corporate wrap of its own in conjunction with SEI, but that is not under the microscope this time. Instead we are going to have a look at Steve Bee’s extension of his JargonFree franchise into the benefits arena.
JargonFreeBenefits (JFB) aims to help SME employers and their advisers with flex or voluntary benefits management, auto-enrolment compliance and associated unpleasantness.
Bee describes it as “a piece of middleware” that plugs into existing payroll systems and – more unusually – any group pension arrangement. That is important, as most of the solutions aimed at the SME market (from Scottish Life’s works4you through to Aviva’s Total Reward Statement package) hang off the purchase of a group scheme.
All those propositions are under threat if NEST comes to dominate the SME space, which will favour agnostic propositions like JFB.
This is crucial to the JFB proposition in another way – Bee told me in his understated way that “financial products will be as irrelevant in two years’ time as floppy disks are now”. To put it another way, the value part of group pensions and benefits is in the operation of those benefits, not the benefits themselves. More on that in a moment.
Under the hood, the benefits administration engine is provided by Staffcare, the ubiquitous flex technology provider used by everyone from Aviva to Mercer and Aon.
A number of providers have tried to offer Staffcare-backed flex propositions to IFAs in the past, but none have really taken off. Bee reckons this is because providers have taken an EBC-style approach and tried to ram it down the IFA market’s throat.
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