When retail investment platforms were first launched, they started life as fund supermarkets. At the time, they were cutting-edge marketplace solutions giving intermediaries and retail customers access to funds from multiple fund managers.
Over time, platforms have aged. Propositional features and regulatory change have become harder to deliver and cost bases have increased as technology has aged and decayed. To address these challenges, several firms have embarked on platform transformation programmes to build new solutions, transform the business’ operating model and migrate existing customer data and assets onto new platforms.
On the face of it, it sounds easy and straightforward. However, from reading the press, it is challenging to identify a successful platform transformation programme in the retail investment platform market. Recent programmes have been troubled by execution challenges, delays, service disruptions and severe overspends. As it turns out, re-platforming large numbers of customers from one technology stack to another is extremely complex to deliver.
However, platform transformations are often a necessity for any organisation keen to respond to rapidly changing client needs. Organisations need to learn from the difficult experiences of others to prepare for effective future programmes. From our experience of working on these types of transformations, we have identified success factors which can help organisations successfully undertake a platform transformation programme, which we have illustrated below.
This is the first in a series of articles in which we tackle the first key area of focus (preparation) for firms embarking on these transformational journeys.
Own the business case
A detailed business case is important for any transformation programme. Reported spends for past platform transformation programmes have been in the range of between £50m and £450m – it is clear the cost/benefit rationale needs to be strong.
Having a robust, impartial baseline of the existing organisation provides a solid benchmark to compare future models. It is crucial that key stakeholders who have knowledge of existing cost data are involved in the identification of assumptions, synergy/benefit predictions and the development of the business case. The wider team must also be aware of the key benefit drivers and have clarity of their delivery boundaries to avoid overspend. The programme delivery model should be developed alongside the business case to ensure benefits are a focal point for the whole team throughout delivery.
Keeping it simple whilst maintaining customer centricity
Platform transformation is inherently complicated and past programmes have been further complicated by overengineering and unrealistic ambitions. It is crucial that the underlying customer and service experience is not neglected. The practical limitations of delivering a large suite of change at once mean that the focus for “Day One” should largely be on achieving a simple offering and enriching the proposition by leveraging automatic gains arising from using new technology.
Programmes must ensure adequate governance structures are in place to assess activity and mitigate any risks to client experience. Governance forums can act as a mechanism to prevent ‘scope creep’ and make decisions to minimise delays in the approval process.
Commit the right people and keep them motivated
Embedding the right people, with the right incentives, in the programme from the outset is critical for successful delivery. Business sponsors with clear vision and remit to make decisions should be appointed from the start. This vision must be shared by the entire delivery team to ensure success and align with the incentives for those delivering the programme. It is imperative that the team is actively motivated through both incentive alignment and delivery ownership.
Resourcing of the programme delivery team should be considered with the organisational end-state design in mind to help drive delivery ownership and ensure a sustainable transition into BAU. Focus should be on resourcing with fewer, but highly skilled, resources. External support should be leveraged to fill specific capability gaps that are not necessarily required in the long term.
Developing a clear communications plan is a fine balancing act. Although wider communications to the business must be prioritised to prevent activities with key dependencies being undertaken in siloes, the commercial sensitivity of the activity must also be considered.
A robust external communications plan should recognise this as well as the needs of different stakeholder segments, for example, advisers, customers and key third parties. A customer-centric mindset should be adopted to ensure customers are informed of any potential disruption.
Setting the programme up for success
Proactive identification of ways to reduce the complexity of the programme is key to de-risking delivery. This exercise should be done with a bird’s eye view of the potential risks, including a regulatory focus. Data migration readiness is a typical example of this, sufficient time and resource must be given to the clean-up of all of the data to be migrated.
Comprehensive programme planning, and the formation of agile decision-making forums with transparent remits, ensures that key risks to delivery can be pre-empted and mitigated. Investing in the set-up of real-time Management Information (MI) can support the mitigation of potential risks. External quality assurance programmes are also recommended to de-risk delivery over the long term.
This article has covered the key foundations for a successful platform transformation programme. The next article in the series will look at how to run a successful platform transformation programme, and the final article in the series will detail how to successfully deliver a migration event.
If you are considering undertaking a platform transformation programme, or are already a part of one, and would like to discuss the issues and recommendations in this series, then please reach out as we would love to hear from you.