Following the launch of ‘Level Up: Business Growth, Platforms and You’, a report on behalf of SEI by platform consultancy the lang cat, we put Mark Polson, Founder and Principal of the lang cat, under the spotlight…

You’ve recently launched a report with SEI Wealth Platform. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

It’s an analysis piece looking at what options advisers have if they don’t feel that the current retail platform market gives them enough control. For example, fast-growing or very large adviser firms might have customisation needs that the usual retail market – which is effectively the provider set we all normally analyse in depth – just can’t deliver.

What options do advisers have when it comes to platform selection and usage?

There’s no shortage of choice. But it all comes down to whether firms are happy with the offer of a retail ‘badged’ solution, or want to put something together themselves. In this way, it’s not unlike pension schemes – there comes a point at which schemes stop buying bundled solutions and start to craft something which looks a bit more like them. That’s something that’s only been available to the very largest firms, but the bar has really started to come down in the last year or two.

What benefits would advisers get from partnering with firms like SEI and building their own bespoke platform, and are there any drawbacks to this route?

Mainly it’s about control – making sure that the platform is absolutely geared up to deliver the proposition the firm has decided on. You can see this in the way someone like True Potential uses SEI. The platform doesn’t have to be completely bespoke, of course – a lot of the underpinnings are common – but this approach does let you control the front end a lot more if you have the appetite and commercial strength to develop that side of things yourself. It’s also worth saying that if you start becoming a platform operator in your own right as a firm, you can make margin on that activity, though that tends to be secondary for most firms. You’re also much less exposed to M&A activity in the platform market – as a bespoke tenant no-one (whether it’s SEI or one of the other bespoke providers) is about to start shouting at you to sell their own range of multi-asset funds post an acquisition.

If you could give one piece of financial advice to a teenage version of yourself, what would it be?

Don’t trade in your rare signed Bay Area thrash records for CDs. You’ll regret it in 27 years’ time.

If you could change one thing about the financial services industry, what would it be?

Stop treating individuals as a purchase channel and start treating them as if they were real people. Some of them – whisper it – actually are.

What would you do if you were Prime Minister for a day?

Reverse the triggering of Article 50 and then shout ‘got you last and no returns’ so that no-one could reverse my reversal.

What is your biggest pet peeve, or makes you angry?

Stock imagery, for example of happy old people on beaches, or women laughing eating salad. Not that I’m against women eating salad, or laughing while they do so, but I have seen quite enough pictures of it now, thanks. Oh, robots shaking hands with humans too. I mean, I could go on.

Now, tell us a little about your life outside of work, do you have any hobbies?

I attempt to shoulder my share of raising two ridiculously bright and energetic kids (the lang kittens v1.0 and v2.0) and also play a bit of guitar, much more poorly than I should given how long I’ve been at it.

What is the one column or website that you read every day?

TechCrunch

What would you do if you received a windfall of £10,000?

Make my local hi-fi dealer very happy.

You can download the full report here.

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