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The meek geek week shall inherit the earth. With advertising.

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So that’s been quite a week in Platformland then.

Most importantly, some bunch of Scots jokers published something and did a load of twitter awards nonsense. If you want to read about it go here and you should be able to sort of follow it. It was fun, and thanks to those of you who played along.

But there’s been some other stuff going on this week. Here’s a brief canter.

First, it’s results week. Mainly happy faces. Skandia has ticked up a bit in its inflows to the platform, and has finally separated out the platform biz from the lifeco in terms of reporting. This is good on lots of levels and will make general market reporting more meaningful, we think.

Skandia had lots going on this week. Model portfolios will be turning up next year; the first sign of guided architecture towards the Select range. In other news, the Select range itself took a breather – those deals ain’t straightforward and the market landscape for a highly commercial multi-faceted machine like OMW ain’t either. And in a headline-hogging attempt, Skandia will also introduce family discounts and client linking – who said that fund supermarkets and wraps weren’t converging? Oh, no-one. That’s right.

Our final bit (or is it) of Skandia news is that the redoubtable Nick Dixon, formerly of Skandiashire, will shortly be joining Aegon as investment director. It’s fascinating to watch how undeniably talented people are moving out of one provider because they don’t fit any more; to then find a berth elsewhere and be hailed as if not the Messiah, then at least not a very naughty boy. Many examples going on just now – the music shows no sign of stopping.

Back to results – let’s summarise. Aegon – bit unhappy cos of Pos Sols, but otherwise looking a bit better. Standard – pretty happy. Aviva – pretty happy other than for Aviva Investors who got a bit of a kicking from their own manager. ‘Sorry, lads. My fault. Picked the wrong team.’ That sort of thing. Euan Munro has a big job ahead of him.

All this is fun. But the most important stories for us this week were Skandia’s outsourcing to IFDS on a mammoth 20-year contract. Given that the tech involved has an Australian heritage, it seems appropriate to point out that now 28% of all divorces in Australia are for couples who’ve reached the 20-year mark. I’m not sure what that proves, but y’know, something, right?

Going along with that is the acquisition of Avelo by IRESS, the Australian (see?) back office provider whose Xplan software is now popping up in Sesame and lots of other places. We’ve had a peek and it’s good stuff.

Now, back office is always emotive for advisers. Will IRESS make a difference to the frustrations folk have felt with Avelo? Maybe. Maybe not. But both the Skandia and IRESS deals have a theme in common – it’s the behind the scenes stuff that matters.

We spend a lot of time in this space banging on about the financial stability of platforms (or ‘platform operators’ as the FCA cannily calls them). Actually, there is arguably a greater systemic threat from the financial stability of otherwise of the tech firms behind platforms. We know Cofunds’ figures, and Novia’s, and Skandia’s and Aviva’s and so on. Who’s looking at Bravura, GBST, FNZ, and now IFDS? Should provider selection be looking through the ‘operator’ level and into the tech?

Probably is the answer – and these tech firms probably need to come out from their typically back-room position and face the market a little bit, maybe show us the fibre of their fabric. Because if one of them has a problem, it hits multiple providers and multiple platforms all at once. If IRESS/Avelo has a problem, thousands of firms will suddenly find life very difficult indeed.

Just musings for now. But this has been a very big week for our little corner of the industry. It’s not all regulation and big ticket stuff – the stuff that doesn’t sound exciting at first hearing often is the stuff that matters more.

Someone said once that ‘the geek shall inherit the earth’. It’s been a meek geek week. And we love it.

 

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About Mark Polson

lang cat founder and boss. Expert on all things platforms, pensions and investments. Prolific writer and public speaker, even when people ask him not to be. Knows more about Scandinavian black metal than you, and isn't afraid to prove it.