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Asking the right questions can help you find a proven, trusted partner

Selecting a platform partner is a significant decision for wealth managers. Major technology transformations come with a number of key risks and the cost of making the wrong decision can be far higher than any other cost involved. Mistakes can be expensive, frustrating and divert management attention and resources away from growing your business. Undertaking thorough due diligence to truly understand what you are buying before you start is critical.

Success stories can happen when you don’t just select a product provider, but find a long-term partner who understands your business and will work alongside you to help you meet your unique business goals. A proven and stable firm can deliver on their promises and allow you to focus your attention on your clients and, ultimately, growing your business.  

So how do you find the firm that will work in close partnership with you?  By asking the following questions during a selection process you will be more likely to find the right firm:

1. Does your new partner understand your strategic business goals?

When it comes to wealth management firms one size does not fit all. Each firm has their unique business challenges and long-term strategic objectives. From the outset, ensure your provider is clear about your long-term business objectives. A true partner won’t be afraid to challenge you to ensure you stay focused on getting the most out of their services to help you meet your goals. 

There is a big difference between long-term value creation and short term advantage. We often see wealth management firms that think they are embracing change but are wedded to legacy processes. This drives them to try to find technology that they can adapt to their current processes without considering if these processes are fit for the future. A true partner should not be afraid to challenge you to avoid this trap. They should deliver strategic advantage and be a fit not just for today but for the future.  

2. Does your partner have the right experience, products and services combined with a proven track record in your market?

Solutions that are either new and unproven, or built for a different region and then adapted, can come with significantly greater risks to your firm. These can range from risks of delays, to regulatory risks and employee flight risk. In these situations it is easy for unnecessary pressure to build as platforms that do not work as expected drive frustration in the workforce. Ask yourself the value that can be put on experience. You need to be sure that the technology you have selected will work as promised from day one. There is no getting away from the fact that any major business transformation comes with inherent risk. But, you can mitigate these challenges by trusting in an experienced team, who have proven that they have supported organisations to successfully transform.

Challenge the providers you are considering on whether their service is already used by wealth management firms in your market. Choose a solution that was built from the ground up for the market it is operating in. Increasing regulatory pressures and the FCA’s focus on operational resilience make this even more imperative. You need a partner that you can be sure will deliver because you have proof they have delivered before.

3. Does your partner have experience of delivering projects on time and on budget?

There are well documented examples of re-platforming delays that have resulted in escalating costs and negative impacts on end customers, employees and shareholders. Delays are not only frustrating, they can be expensive and will divert management time and attention away from your core business. Be sure that your transformation can, and will, be delivered on time and on schedule. Ask your new provider about their implementation and migration processes and their track record of delivering these. These should be well-tested and the provider should be able to provide evidence of delivering large-scale change projects to a pre-agreed cost and schedule.

Although a lot of this risk will occur during the initial implementation, this does not mean it won’t affect your business later. Consider the long-term objectives of your business and what future change projects might be required to achieve these. A true partner will be able to demonstrate how they have supported their clients through transformation – both organic and inorganic.

4. Can your partner provide future-proofed technology and long-term stability?

Technology is continuously evolving the wealth management landscape and you don’t want to be left behind. Be sure that the technology that you are selecting won’t be outdated before you go live. End-to-end unified technology, which is able to integrate with other systems, can help deliver long-term success. Your partner should always have one eye on the future and be committed to investing annually into their technology. Be mindful of the need for further system upgrades and whether these changes will result in additional costs in the future.

It is also key to remember you are selecting a long-term partner, not a short-term product. Take time to understand their business, including the company balance sheet. Will they survive economic shocks? Will they be around in 10 years? In recent years there have been a number of changes and consolidation in wealth management technology providers. It is important to select a firm who is stable and whose commitment remains focused on servicing their clients.

Brett  Williams

CEO, SEI Investments (Europe) Ltd and Managing Director, SEI Wealth Platform, UK

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