Lift Financial has undertaken several bulk platform transfer exercises so here the chartered financial planning firm offers five key takeaways it has learned from its previous efforts.

In a bid to encourage more advisers to move clients between providers, the lang cat earlier this week released a report on platform switching alongside AJ Bell.

The lang cat surveyed 95 adviser firms for a section of the report and found experiences with platform switching varied significantly. One-quarter of the firms canvassed described moving clients from one platform to another as “a huge undertaking” or “absolutely brutal”, while none saw it as an easy endeavour.

In the report, to try and make transitioning clients from one platform to another seem less complicated and daunting, the lang cat asked the team at Chartered financial planner Lift Financial to offer up some suggestions for advisers. Here are the wise words from the platform transfer veteran firm.

1. Treat the transfer exercise as a project

As a project, Lift said, transfer exercises should have a scope, an owner and stakeholders. “We treat both the ceding and receiving provider as key stakeholders and ensure they are involved from the outset,” the firm explains.

“We find that positive engagement works best – even ceding platforms, while they may be disappointed to lose assets, respond well to professionalism. Our head of business change is an awesome project manager and makes sure everything runs as smoothly as it can.”

2. Map out the processes involved

“For example,” the Chartered financial planning firm says, “the new home or custodian won’t know the base cost for the purchase of various assets, so that data will need to come over separately. Nothing need be a problem if you are prepared for it.

“Well-defined processes avoid big mistakes. And put names in boxes – everyone needs to know what’s expected of them. These are the basics of good project management.”

3. Don’t over-complicate the advice

On the question of suitability, Lift explains it views big bulk pension transfers as an “optimisation” and so does not do a full suitability refresh.

“We disclose the things that are changing, along with all the regulatory information, and ask clients to approve that,” it adds. “It is demonstrably for their benefit, so we don’t see a need to overcomplicate the advice.”

4. Don’t visit clients and try not to send letters

One thing Lift is 100% sure on is that it does not visit clients as part of the transfer process and it tries not to send letters either. Instead, the firm prefers to use the messaging function of the client portal of its back-office system.

Using the portal, Lift’s clients can then tick to acknowledge they are happy to proceed with the transfer and, if they do not respond, the firm follows up with a phone call. “Wet signatures may still be required, but that’s easy to do once everyone is clear what’s happening,” says the firm.

5. Be pragmatic and realistic

To be pragmatic and realistic, the firm usually does transfer exercises in tranches – for example, it might do ISA/GIA accounts in Tranche 1, followed by self-invested personal pensions in Tranche 2, with drawdown accounts in Tranche 3.

“There are always some clients who get left behind, but life isn’t perfect and we’ll sweep them up later in the process,” it adds.

‘Reassess our choices every year’
With some final, parting wisdom, the Chartered firm says: “In general, we think we are just here to do what’s best for the client. It’s our job to put them in the best position and make outcomes as good as we possibly can.

“We negotiate hard with platforms on behalf of clients and reassess our choices every year. We can do that with confidence because we know we have built the processes. So if we say that we have a certain amount to bring over, providers can have certainty that we will indeed do just that.”

This is reproduced from Professional Adviser; all views are from the publication. This originally appeared online on 03 May 2019.