Buckles is considering adopting parent company Sanlam's remote advice model as it looks to "crack" the UK online market and attract new clients.
If adopted, the new service will harness the South African company's superior technology to offer a purely online model, complementing its virtual in-house advice model trialled in August.
"The online advice model has yet to be cracked in the UK and someone's going to do it soon," says CEO Nigel Speirs (pictured). "The model in South Africa is a sophisticated system which works and we are exploring whether we can adapt that to the UK market."
Speirs draws a distinction between the South African system and Buckles' in-house Virtual Adviser model trialled in August and stresses the two systems could run in tandem.
Whereas Buckles' own virtual model still has a role for the adviser, with face-to-face advice given after a telephone and internet data-gathering exercise, the South African system is a purely online offering aimed at a different client bank.
"These are different markets," says Speirs. "One is designed to bring in new clients and the other is about talking to existing clients in a more cost-effective way."
He says Buckles is currently examining the feasibility of launching Sanlam's online-only service and considering how much modification would be needed to adapt the technology to the UK.
The Sanlam system consists of a series of online prompts based on factors such as the customer's age and profile, with Speirs describing it as a "decision tree" rather than questionnaire.
He says South Africa is "well ahead" of the UK in the realm of online financial services, pointing to its ability to engage with a younger clientele and those looking to invest for the first time.
Speirs stresses both the virtual advice model and possible adoption of Sanlam's system does not signify a change of direction into the mass market arena.
"We are still a niche player with our niche products and managed portfolios and will stay that way."
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