"We're trying to take advisers on a journey with us and show them the value of change."

Stephen Gazard is CEO of Quilter Financial Planning, one of the largest financial advisory firms in the UK. He talks about driving transformation and change in financial advice, the power of great technology and what keeps him awake at night.

On transformation

We've built our scale through organic growth, but also many acquisitions which bring complex and costly infrastructures, all operating on different technology platforms. When we looked at our processes a while ago, we'd sent some of our key clients a lot of paper during the course of it, through the various business areas engaging with that same client from Quilter. It's one of the reasons why a major part of our strategy is transformation.

Our vision is to be a fully integrated wealth business. Bringing services within an integrated set of core technology stacks, to support both our advisers and our internal teams to deliver better client outcomes. In a way that’s more cost-effective for the business too. No matter where a client or potential client is in the UK, they can access us in various ways under the Quilter brand.

On advisers' relationship with technology

The pandemic has accelerated advisers’ adoption of tech in ways we could only have hoped for. Some were ready, with the technology in place to engage clients remotely through video and client portals. Their clients probably weren't quite there, but now are very familiar with those services. We have at the other end of the spectrum, advisers working in bedrooms with paper filing systems, hoping we'll return back to the face-to-face environment. Then we've got a large population of the middle ground, who have adapted to delivering face-to-face advice remotely but are still delivering face-to-face advice. Their processes and procedures are still very manual and paper orientated.

I've always been a supporter of tech doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes. We’re trying to take all advisers on a journey with us and show the value of change - that’s the point, actually seeing the value. I know the power of the deployment of a good system. One system, one process might be an ideal world situation, but it’s one we need to work towards.

On the future of advice

The people at Iress know our business inside out. We've learnt when it comes to making decisions about software that it's about having the right people in the right room at the right time. We’ve been on a journey with Iress and have a trusted relationship that’s open and honest.

There’s certainly more opportunity to drive transformation and change among our advisers. There is much to do and deliver despite the current climate. CommPay, the Iress revenue system, has just launched. A new investment platform and user interface are also projects underway. When we are able to check the quality of the advice being given by our advisers and interrogate that through the system and engage with that data, things like automation AI and robotics open up to us. There’s a lot of exciting opportunities ahead.

One of the things that keep me awake at night is that we haven't necessarily seen a willingness for advisers to reach out to new clients with new opportunities without being face to face. As we faced a series of tighter sanctions and lockdowns it became something we're quite focused on. The unadvised is a growth market. Trying to get people to save and plan for their long term futures is definitely not something that the UK has cracked. If anything the current situation shows just how vitally important that is.

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