Alpha has never before seen so much large-scale change ambition within the UK wealth and retail investment industry. In order to achieve these large-scale change ambitions, firms will typically be dependent on the services or technology of a third-party. Therefore, choosing the correct partner is absolutely crucial to success.
Request for Proposals (RFPs) allow for a structured approach to assessing the viability of partners. However, traditional approaches can risk being lengthy and create artificial separation between the client and bidders, resulting in a poor final outcome.
After years of conducting selections in the wealth and retail investment industry, Alpha have refined the principles of our RFP approach and are able to tailor the process to best suit the client’s objectives. Below we have shared some examples of how firms can piece together approaches from the different phases to ‘build your own’ tailored RFP.
“Build your own” RFP
Whilst the phasing of an RFP project remains roughly the same in each iteration, the exact structure and approach of each phase can be tailored.
Prior to embarking on an RFP, a firm must first know its change objectives and the role the third party will play in the future business model.
The firm must assess if a new operating model / technology will support the business to meet their objectives, and then document which areas of the business will be impacted across people, process, technology and data. This provides a clear view of scope and specific technology integrations to consider, which can later be refined in detail with a chosen provider.
Example Design Approach 1: Specific Model Focus
Firms may be looking to understand how a specific model could be beneficial to their business. For example, in the last year Alpha has seen an increased number of wealth managers and retail investment providers looking to explore outsourcing models. In this instance, Alpha would recommend conducting a specific outsourcing model assessment. This process allows firms to understand how an outsourcing model could align with their strategic objectives, as well as what and where the key concerns or pitfalls may be.
Example Design Approach 2: Target Operating Model Comparison
Alternatively, firms may be interested in a broader strategic review of their operating model. In this instance, Alpha would recommend completing a current state gap analysis to understand why your current set-up cannot help you reach your goals. Firms should then complete a comparative scoring exercise on a number of potential future state options, to see which best bridges these gaps or helps meet future objectives
After agreeing the future operating model, the next step is to understand the vendor and technology landscape available to bring that vision to life.
To accelerate the overall selection process, Alpha recommends conducting an initial market assessment to identify the vendors / solutions which best meet requirements. This helps to narrow the number of providers required to complete the full RFP. Often firms find they need to keep as low a profile as possible at this early stage. Signing NDAs, briefing vendors on discretion or tracking insider groups are good, but they cannot replace the anonymity provided by a third party with trusted relationships across the market.
Example Vendor Shortlisting Approach 1: Confidential Market Scan
Alpha can support wealth managers and retail investment providers to identify a shortlist of potential vendor solutions using just our proprietary knowledge of the market and experience working with its vendors. This allows firms to review and assess vendor / solution options against their strategic objectives reliably whilst maintaining complete confidentiality.
Example Vendor Shortlisting Approach 2: Initial Vendor Engagement
Alternatively, firms may wish to directly engage vendors early on an anonymous basis to assess their responses to key terms or specific functionality points. As Alpha is engaged with any number of industry vendors at one time, we can support firms to approach vendors with specific questions whilst keeping their identity a secret.
RFP Preparation and Structuring
The next step is to engage those third parties directly to understand in detail which is the best choice to support the future state.
At this stage it is key to remember that this is a comparative assessment to find a preferred provider, it is not a detailed due diligence process. The assessment must keep focus on the key decision considerations, and not get lost in unnecessary detail as this could inaccurately skew the outcomes of the assessment.
Example RFP Preparation Approach 1: Comparative Red Flag Assessment
A comparative approach allows firms to investigate if vendors have coverage of relevant capabilities whilst focusing on the key red flags and deciding factors which will materially impact the comparative decision between vendors. This approach tends to have a reduced number of questions which allows for more descriptive commentary in responses. This provides better detail on key aspects such as strategic direction and cultural fit, which is crucial for assessing future state partnership type relationships (e.g. outsourcing).
Example RFP Preparation Approach 2: Detailed Functional Deep-dive
In some circumstances, firms may choose to incorporate more detailed due diligence focused questions into the RFP. This may include more specific questions on functional processes to interrogate ‘how’ vendor solutions meet requirements, rather than just ‘if’ they do. These types of questionnaires tend to be leveraged for software focused solutions and are made up of mainly “yes / no” or scoreable questions with a few limited longer responses or explanations.
Regardless of the approach taken at this stage, Alpha recommends firms share their key deal principles or contractual terms with the vendors in parallel with distributing the RFP questionnaire. Asking the vendors to respond to these early in the process allows any red-flag commercial or legal terms to be addressed more quickly, which ultimately speeds up the contractual phase post selection.
It can be impossible to get an accurate understanding of a vendor from their responses on paper alone. There are also very human elements of the decision to consider which can only be assessed in a face-to-face session. To ensure the best possible fit with the future vendor, Alpha recommends that firms host a series of focused workshops following the submission of vendor RFP questionnaire responses.
Example RFP Assessment Approach 1: Collaborative Working Sessions
This approach focuses on two-way interactive workshops to further investigate the vendors functional solution and get insights into their collaborative working style. This works well when assessing vendors for close partnerships such as outsource models. Alpha typically structures this approach to have an upfront vendor pitch and Q&A with senior decision makers, followed by a series of joint working sessions centred on specific functions / capabilities or questions.
Example RFP Assessment Approach 2: Informative System Demos
A different approach focuses on one-way vendor presentations and system demos, which allows firms to understand the breadth and depth of the vendor solution beyond the initial RFP requirements. As such, this approach pairs well with the ‘Detailed Functional Deep-Dive’ questionnaire. Firms can even go one step further and request video pitches if looking to reduce assessment timelines.
Additional Consideration Factors
The number of vendors included in the RFP
In order to conserve the valuable time of client decision makers and SMEs, Alpha typically would not recommend completing a full RFP exercise on any more than 3 vendors. This is because the time invested in reviewing vendor responses as well as attending pitches, site visits, demos and workshops is multiplied by the number of vendors in the process.
If firms are unable to narrow down the shortlist then clear decision and elimination points must be defined. As an example, clients could enforce elimination points after the initial questionnaire response, and again after initial pitches, to ensure a maximum of 3 vendors are taken through to workshop stage.
Internal Firm Communication and Buy-in
The approach to managing internal communications when running an RFP exercise can vary dramatically, but ultimately the correct approach will be dependent on each company’s culture and decision-making governance frameworks. To decide which approach is right for you, a firm must weigh up delivery timelines and confidentiality against transparency and company buy-in.
- An RFP process should be tailored to suit the culture of the client, the scope of the assessment and the vendors being considered
- Focus must be maintained throughout on the client’s business objectives and key decision factors, needless detail will distract and delay the process
- To ensure buy-in from key stakeholders and maximise the likelihood of an actionable final decision at the end of the process, the RFP process should be run alongside an effective communications approach
How Alpha Can Help
Alpha has extensive experience defining future state wealth manager operating models and running effective vendor RFPs. As demonstrated above, we are able to tailor the RFP process and leverage key industry knowledge and connections to ensure the best possible outcomes for the client. Further to this, we have an extensive bank of wealth focused RFP questions and other accelerators to mobilise quickly and enable efficient end-to-end delivery.
For further information, please reach out to the authors or contact us here.