Right, now pay attention. We’ll get to the usual Update in a moment, but instead of the usual whimsy to ease you into your lunchtime, I’ve got an important announcement. Ready?

WE’RE HIRING!

Inexplicably, more and more clients seem to like what we do, and so we need to extend the cat basket. We’ve got three (3) roles open, from product development to insight to marketing communications. You can find everything you need here – https://langcatfinancial.co.uk/join-the-team/ – and we’re ready and waiting to hear from you. Everybody wants to be a cat…or do they? Let’s find out.

OK, back to the Update.

Here’s a question. What’s the right size for a platform? I’m asking because I had a very enlightening chat this week with the boss of a reasonably sized adviser firm based in Englandshire somewhere – you know, the bit that stops you getting your feet wet when you go due south from Scotland – who was frankly in a bit of a mood with the whole platform sector.

His thing was that the big platforms his firm used – including some very well-thought of ones – were asleep at the wheel and had let service standards drop. When they had a moan – and as a firm with the thick end of £1.5bn AUA, they expected to be taken seriously – the answer was ‘computer says no’. It’s hard to make changes when you’re piloting a supertanker and all that.

So the natural thing is to look to smaller platforms, but the sheer amount of corporate activity going on was putting him off there too; three of the platforms his firm has assets on are undergoing some kind of upheaval.

Going to one of the adviser-as-platform type shops doesn’t insulate you from changes of ownership and control. A platform being publicly listed doesn’t insulate you; takeovers happen irrespective of structure. Looking highheidyins in the eye and asking them to swear that they’re not going to change is ridiculous; all platforms have providers of capital and no-one is doing this for a warm fuzzy feeling.

So is there a Goldilocks size? Big enough to be invulnerable but not so big that you become cumbersome? Maybe. I’m not so sure. I do know that it’s more pleasant to deal with firms that genuinely want your business rather than treat you like a cash cow to be milked. And I know that requiring outsourced technology providers to bend and flex for the beautiful and unique way you prefer to onboard a client, or do a review, is a recipe for some very complex and clunky love-all-serve-all technology down the line.

I wonder if the answer isn’t so much about this one or that one; it’s in the way that firms work with providers. It’s about asserting control and primacy and going into supplier relationships with eyes open; reframing those relationships so platforms – and others – have to earn the right to continue to earn off your clients’ assets for the year to come. Never go into a room you don’t know how to get out of.

I wrote about some of this in NMA this week – see the links below – and my contention is that firms like yours are now in the driving seat more than ever before. You wanted to remake the sector in your own image, and over the last decade you’ve managed to do that. Now it’s time to make that real. It means more work, but the prize is a reduction of dependency and more antifragility. If you can’t change the world, change yourself, as Matt Johnson once sang.

LINKY MCLINKFACE

  • Sour news for 200 unlucky souls at FOS. Maybe the new Consumer Duty will mean there are fewer cases for them to see…
  • The proposed simplification of charges to one percentage charge for workplace default funds is interesting. Large amounts of “but but but” from the master-trust sector, but no-one’s pointing out that wave after wave of research shows that many, many Brits can’t do percentages
  • Lovely big platforms special in New Model Adviser this week, full of good stuff from all sorts.
  • Please do support HomeGames this week – it’s Natalie’s first one and she’s got a brilliant guest in the form of Smart Divorce’s Tamsin Caine. Well worth 45 minutes of anyone’s time, especially yours.
  • And a punt for next week’s HomeGames too – we’ve only gone and got your actual Noel Butwell from what I’m pretty sure is still Standard Life Aberdeen. You won’t want to miss this one either – register here.
  • And your music choice this week is inevitable. Please look past some of the more, er, unreconstructed elements, and know that lang cat parties are always exactly like what you see at 3.40 minutes into the song. Go big or go home. Everybody Wants To Be A Cat. You know it.

See you next week.

Mark