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Tech boss: Platform integrations ‘won’t happen overnight’

February 18th, 2022 | In The Press

Robin Bevan

Platforms’ decisions to integrate with more software firms simply “won’t happen overnight”, a tech boss has warned.

Robin Bevan, the chief executive of Sprint, has told FTAdviser every platform his firm has spoken to since November is prioritising data integration.

However, the majority still feel it is a “big decision” to change their course from a ‘point-by-point’ to ‘hub’ approach.

While the former approach sees platforms establish their own connections with software providers, the latter approach would see more platforms plug into a Finio or a Origo Integration Hub and piggyback off their already established connections.

“What’s really holding them [platforms] back is probably the fact these are quite big decisions,” the chief executive explained.

The nature of integrations is getting more complex“. Bevan

“If you’ve historically gone down the point-to-point route and you decide to change that and go down the hub route, it’s quite an important decision. And therefore, these decisions, I don’t think they happen overnight. They do take a little bit of time.”

Bevan said there was no particular barrier facing platforms per se, due to the fact integration is “on everybody’s mind and is pretty inevitable”.

Sprint is the owner of data hub ‘FINIO’ which connects platforms with software providers, and this launched in November 2021.

At the Lang Cat Live event in Piccadilly last week, Parmenion’s chief marketing officer Sarah Lyons was asked what will be most important for platforms, to which she said just one word: “Data”.

But Bevan estimates a platform taking a ‘point-by-point’ approach would have to establish 3,500 of its own integrations to give their adviser clients access to the entire UK adviser software market.

“This approach takes up an awful lot of resources, and neither party has them to meet the demand,” said Bevan.

Sprint already works with the likes of M&G-owned Ascentric, AnaCap-acquired Novia, James Hay and its acquired platform Nucleus, Transact, and 7IM, providing them with an adviser reporting tool.

But just one of those, 7IM, has signed up to its hub, which processes platforms’ data before passing it on to software firms. Raymond James, Finio’s other hub customer, didn’t previously use its reporting tool.

When 7IM signed up, the platform had established 20 of its own software integrations, which, by Bevan’s calculations, would have represented 0.6 per cent of the adviser software market.

“This industry hasn’t done a great job of allowing this integration to take place,” said Bevan. 

On a Lang Cat HomeGames webinar just last month, advisers raised the issue of how a lack of data integration amongst platforms has been costing them time on processes such as annual reviews.

Over the next three years, Sprint’s target is to get 10 platforms signed up to Finio. Currently, 23 platforms are already signed up to its reporting tool.

Bevan is certain the need for FINIO has grown. “One trend which is absolutely apparent is the need for integration.”

One of Sprint’s platform clients for its reporting tool serves 600 IFAs. Five years ago, 75 of its advice firm clients required data fed in, a little over 10 per cent. But now, 300 are making the request – a five-fold increase.

“The nature of integrations is getting more complex too,” Bevan continued. “Mifid II fees and charges requirements have seen the IFA industry move from requesting one line of data to 20 years-worth of transactions.”

Bevan describes FINIO as “what Calastone did between the fund managers and platforms”. It makes money by charging either the platform or the software system, depending on which party approaches it with a connection request. It will never charge both parties using the same link.

Source: FT Adviser