The winners of the Aberdeen Platform Awards 2011 were announced at a glittering awards ceremony in London last night.
Best direct-to-customer platform
Winner: Hargreaves Landsdown
Highly commended: Fidelity
This is a sector that is expected to expand following the RDR. Fidelity has an exceptional proposition, which is hard to beat. However, according to the judges, the winner is simply a phenomenal proposition that is the benchmark for all to follow. This platform makes it fun to invest and is massively easy to use. They send lots of information without pressuring the customer too much. Their best advocates are their users.
Best institutional platform
This is a new category for the platform that provide a fund service to pensions schemes, wealth managers, banks and other retail investment providers. The judges expect the category to become increasingly significant in the coming years. One of the judges described the winner as quite simply the leading player in the field. They are very worthy winners who in their own words "take the pain" for their clients
Leading innovation in workplace solutions
Winner: BenPal from JLT
Highly commended: Orbit from Bluefin
This category currently includes both flexible benefit platforms and corporate wraps. The judges liked the Staffcare proposition but felt that it didn't quite offer the scope of their two favoured entrants, Orbit and BenPal.
The margin between the winner and the runner up was a very short head, they are two excellent platforms. The judges liked BenPal's connection with the end customer, the striving for innovation and recognition of the growing importance of international coverage.
Best investment management platform proposition
Winner: Seven Investment Management
Highly commended: Raymond James Investment Services
Once again, different judges made a case for each of the three finalists. The judges liked the Parmenion proposition but felt the other two currently have greater traction in the market. Raymond James offer an excellent service and are recognised as leaders in this field. Ultimately, it was felt that Seven Investment Management had raised their game more dramatically since last year in functionality and reporting and this has been reflected in customer feedback.
Best new platform
Winner: Scottish Widow's mymoneyworks
Highly commended: True Potential
A J Bell made a late entry with their new platform. The judges felt they needed to know a little more about it, especially user experience. Only one of the three finally shortlisted has yet found traction in the market and achieved user endorsement. True Potential have an exciting proposition; at the time of judging, there had been little opportunity for customer feedback, so they expect to see this one competing in this category again next year as well as A J Bell. Aviva have yet to make their mark, but will, doubtless, do so.
Mymoneyworks targets the mass affluent rather than just wealthy and has lots of focus on cash as an asset class. Many providers have talked about corporate wrap but Scottish Widows has delivered. The judges described mymoneyworks as relevant, focused and tailored to customer needs and a worthy winner.
Leading Innovation award
Winner: Synaptic Comparator from Capita
Highly commended: HSBC
Platforms are all about innovation in technology, so this award is one of the most thrilling. The judges liked all three finalists. MoneyInfo from Sammedia brings all the clients' financial affairs together, True Potential promises to take wraps to a new level and HSBC have addressed an issue in the bond wrapper space and offer advisers a much needed solution.
However, they felt the winner is truly innovative and one that provided a solution that the market needed urgently in view of the regulator's demands and one that quickly established traction. Comparator not only looks at the cost of platforms over time, but also the cost of investment portfolios. It is a truly innovative product.
Leading independent planning tool provider
Winner: Adviser Workstation from Morningstar
Highly commended: Analytics from FE
With the FSA's focus on suitability, the role of planning tools is under the microscope. The judges liked both Finametrica and Moneyscope. They felt they both performed their roles beautifully, but offered less scope than the two finalists who offered comparable quality.
In a very competitive market, the judges decided that Morningstar' Adviser Workstation and FE's Analytics were both of the very highest quality. In their own words, you could spin a coin. However, they ultimately decided that Morningstar had broadened its scope by offering qualitative as well as quantitative research by virtue of their purchase of OBSR
Leading platform-based planning tool provider
Winner: U-Skan from Skandia
Highly commended: Fidelity
The judges settled on two entries that they felt were superior to the rest, Skandia and Fidelity. Both have new developments, which the judges found impressive. However, rather than making themselves hostages to fortune, they opted to place more emphasis on user feedback of existing products rather than on the exciting but as yet untested.
Skandia has a coherent process, has been a trailblazer in this sector for years and has consistently supported the market with investment in development.
Leading platform-enabled retirement proposition
Winner: Standard Life
Highly commended: Transact
This is for the leading fully platform-integrated retirement solution. The judges were looking for an on-platform retirement proposition that enables the customer to look across all investments together, to enable genuinely holistic investment methodology across tax-wrappers, as well as offering a competitive personal pension proposition.
The judges were very impressed with the Transact submission, which they might well have made the winner if the target market was only the high net worth. The Standard Life entry demonstrated a mix of great technology supported by people who will ensure advisers have all the resource they require. In addition, the judges were impressed that this platform offered a solution for a broad market and not just high net worth, which they felt fitted with this award marginally more.
Best platform software provider
Initially the judges each favoured different short-listed entrants. One made a case for Bravura, another for GBST and another for FNZ. The only agreement was that two-thirds of those attending the dinner would regard their decision as wrong whichever one was the winner.
After much discussion, they decided that the award should go to the provider judged best by those who have made the purchasing decision, thus rewarding success in the market place. FNZ continue to win new contacts for a variety of different platforms and won the vote by a whisker.
Best platform administration provider
Based on voting by platform managers
This is for the best provider of those administration services that enable platforms to offer a robust, reliable service to their intermediary and end customer platform users. The award is made on the basis of votes by those who use the services, the platform managers.
Once again, the winner got home by the tightest of margins
Leading adviser business (over 10 advisers)
Winner: Paradigm Norton
Highly commended: Baigrie Davies
The judges were looking for a business that had migrated to a platform model and seen benefits in terms of client proposition, service, profitability and business value. The three best entrants were invited to be interviewed by the judges. They were:
Chadney Bulgin LLP
Paradigm Norton Financial Planning Ltd
The three firms presenting were of a very high standard. They were very different - a high-end financial planner, a traditional IFA that realised the model had to change and a firm that has recently added a specialist pensions business to its existing portfolio.
Paradigm Norton remains the benchmark for the high end financial planner. They continue to experiment. They are looking to a wider customer base, looking to service the mass affluent in addition to the wealthy. They are also on a road moving forward and distancing themselves from their competition.
Leading adviser practice (up to 10 advisers)
Winner: Investment Quorum
Highly commended: OCM Wealth Management
This is for the smaller adviser practice, typically owner managed, that has migrated the business to a platform model. The process was the same as for the leading adviser business. The three finalists were:
OCM Wealth Management
Again, the standard was high. The judges were particularly keen to recognise Louise McWeeney of OCM Wealth Management, for a brilliant performance at the interview. However, the winner, Investment Quorum, is outstanding. They continue to iterate and innovate; they are a firm on a journey and are currently in a league of their own.
Best platform for adviser service
Based on marks awarded by advisers
This award is for the platform that gives the adviser firm the best support in the crucial areas of service and administration including initial implementation and training of advisers, registration of assets on and off the platform and all aspects of ongoing service.
Advisers voted by awarding marks on a number of categories including initial implementation and training of advisers, registration of assets on and off the platform and all aspects of ongoing service agreed by Rayner Spencer Mills.
In third place with an average score of 4.01 out of 5: Ascentric
In second place with an average score of 4.45 out of 5, and highly commended: Nucleus
In first place with an average score of 4.51 out of 5 (a margin of only 1%): Transact
Best fund platform
Winner: Skandia Investment Solutions
Based on voting by advisers
This is for platforms that offer a range of funds, wrappers, aggregation, online access for trading and viewing - those we used to call fund supermarkets. Advisers voted for the platform that offers scope, functionality, excellent administration and support.
Best open architecture wrap platform
Based on voting by advisers
As for the fund platform but offering non-rebate remuneration so that non-commission paying products can be included e.g. cash, equities, investment trusts, ETFs - those we tend to call open architecture wrap platforms.
The platform of the year - 2011
Highly commended: Fidelity FundsNetwork
This award is for the platform that the judges deem to have made the greatest advance or been the most innovative in 2011. It may be an established platform that has made great advances or a new platform that has broken new ground.
The judges looked for evidence that advances or innovations have resulted in measurable success in terms of share either in the market overall or in a quantifiable niche area.
The judges considered the submissions together with feedback from advisers on service.
They reduced the twelve entries to a shortlist of four; Any of the four shortlisted could have been the winner as each demonstrated commitment to the market, high quality service and development:
The judges felt that Fidelity FundsNetwork have really upped their game over the last year, having previously slipped a little behind their key competitors.
Nucleus is an open architecture platform offering a huge range of assets. They have a unique proposition that has found great favour with those advisers who want a stake in their platform of choice. They are highly regarded of by these users for listening and for service, are innovative, as in their adoption of social media, have secured themselves a strong financial position and are making a profit.
To promote 'long-term investment'
Switching 'hard and expensive'
Smaller funds still packing a punch
To drive progress