Ian McKenna, director of F&TRC explains the process behind this year’s Employee Benefits Platforms Survey
WHILE RDR continues to cast a long shadow over the future profitability of financial advice in the individual sector, it is hard not to see the corporate market as full of opportunity. Even without auto-enrolment the increased costs of obtaining individual advice make the workplace environment the ideal stage for consumer facing services. When combined with the less than benign obligations being imposed upon employers by The Pensions Regulator, every employer becomes a potential target customer.
Over the last year there has been a dramatic evolution in the range of services available to employers to support workplace benefits. At the same time the lines between the traditional players in the market, pension providers, EBCs, corporate IFAs and software suppliers have all become more blurred. Increasingly distributors are becoming wholesalers or even assemblers of propositions while many manufacturers have increased their direct to market propositions. While faced with a richness of solutions, employers now need to be able to differentiate between vastly different propositions in order to arrive at the solutions that best meet the needs of their staff.
Perhaps the nearest analogy to this scenario is the mobile phone market where so-called “Co-opertition” has driven an environment where competitors actually provide services on each other’s devices. For example Google is the search engine at the heart of the iPhone while at the same time Android is the Apple smart phones’ most aggressive competitor. Recent developments in the workplace market seem to be following a very similar trend with some EBCs increasingly selecting a range of components from various manufacturers to up parts of their propositions.
Against this background the research summarised on these pages should provide a wealth of information to enable both adviser firms and individual employers to compare and contrast the different elements that can go into different propositions. Whereas historically we had delivered a single overall rating of the propositions from different organisations, during the last year it has become increasingly clear that such a blunt, one size fits all, mechanism is no longer appropriate in this marketplace where different organisations are choosing to deliver very different propositions.
The ratings provided here measure 76 elements of different organisations’ propositions with each allocated a rating between one and five stars. We believe this represents by far the most detailed independent summary of propositions from the diverse range of organisations included.
We are already including a wide range of different areas but feedback from both adviser firms and employers as to further content that should be studied in the future is very welcome. In time we expect to add significant additional areas to the benchmarking.
Entry to this study is open to any organisation that has its own distinct workplace benefits solution available online, i.e. they are delivering a proposition which is more than a straight white label of a third-party software product. A number of the organisations rated in today’s study source the majority of their tools from a single third party supplier but have added additional elements to differentiate themselves, while others have built their own entirely independent proposition. Any organisation that can provide this level of distinctiveness is eligible to apply for a rating. During 2012 our benchmarking process is being adapted to enable firms to request revised ratings once new functionality is received and any changes in results, together with entries from new propositions will be reflected in the web-based version of this analysis. No charge is made for either submitting a proposition for rating or appearing in the summary results.
Organisations wishing to submit an entry should contact F&TRC via www.ftrc.co.uk
Click here to view the full Employee Benefits Platforms survey