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Check out who won our Advisers' Choice Platform Awards

Which platform providers came out on top in Citywire's Adviser Choice Platform Awards? Click through this gallery to find out what firms you said were superior in terms of tools and functionality, charging structure and investments...

Transact takes top spot

Transact was the big winner at the Citywire Advisers’ Choice Platform Awards.

The awards, decided through an online voting campaign across Citywire websites, proved to be a great success for Transact, which swept the board in all three categories. Awards were given for Tools and Functionality, Charging and Service, and Investments, with the results in each category calculated following voting from a broad range of advisers.

Advisers voted on a number of subjects for each platform they use. For the Tools and Functionality category, they rated the range and effectiveness of the tools provided, its ease of use, and how well it links with back office software.

For the Charging and Service award, advisers were asked how they rated the platform’s charging structure, how confident they were of the financial strength of the platform provider, and how good the platform’s service levels were.

In order to determine the award for Investments, advisers rated the platform’s range of investments available and gave their view on the range of wrappers on offer.

The availability of a cash account was also taken into consideration.

So who did you vote for?

Second behind Transact in Tools and Functionality was Novia. Jeremy Pope, chartered financial planner at Windsor-based Century Law, says the firm has recently been doing a lot of research about the various platforms and their functionality in the run up to the retail distribution review (RDR). ‘What’s spurred us on to review it is the changes to Skandia, the platform we had used. What we like about Novia is the fact it’s so fully functional.

‘It’s open architecture with regards to funds, but without inflicting massive costs on the user. We’ve only recently started using them but they’ve made it seem quite straightforward.’ Novia was founded by Bill Vasilieff, formerly of Selestia, in 2008. It aims to offer a comprehensive wrap service providing independence from any product provider, a high level of adviser support and a wide range of product wrappers and portfolio management tools.

Skandia came third in the Tools and Functionality category. For Stephen Buckle, senior paraplanner at Suffolk-based Kingsfleet Wealth, the ability to obtain a performance graph and volatility scatter graph for its clients’ portfolios which takes into consideration all fund switches since their account opened is tremendously useful.

In particular, Kingfleet makes use of Skandia’s U-Skan investment analysis tool. ‘Performance reporting is also way ahead of competitors, but we still have question marks regarding their process for adding new funds to the platform and, looking into next year, the difficulty in being able to access investment trusts and other types of investments through Skandia. This may mean that we will begin to support some of the alternative platforms that we have access to and occasionally use more frequently.’

Transact also beat other providers for the top spot in Charging and Service. Second place in this category went to Standard Life. George Ladds, head of operations at Bristol-based LWM Consultants, says the Edinburgh-based life company has provided his firm with strong service.

‘That’s a big thing. With the changes coming on 1 January 2013, with the retail distribution review, we’ve got clients to agree fees and sent an addendum to all clients. Standard Life have been really helpful, making sure the wording is robust. That kind of service is second to none; beyond what you would expect people to do.’

Standard Life is keen to highlight its scale and financial muscle. The life company’s wrap offers access to more than 2,000 funds as well as many UK equities, gilts, bonds, investment trusts and other types of investment.

Aviva took third place for its charging and service. Andrew Alexander, head of investment and product strategy at Glasgow-based Campbell Thomson, uses the platform, although not exclusively.

‘We use it for what you might call lower end clients because of the charging structure. For anything under £50,000 we’ve agreed terms with Aviva where we can get clients on for 0.35%. ‘That does make it cost effective. We have very good local service here in Glasgow. If we have any problems or issues we go directly to the consultants. Also, with getting client data on they’ve made the process very slick, and navigating around the platform is very easy and straightforward.’

Last but not least, Transact, headed by Ian Taylor (pictured) took the award for Investments, in the view of Will Lloyd of Bedfordshire-based Accalon Associates, because it is almost as open as it is possible to get.

‘That’s what they got right from the beginning. A genuine wrap needs to be able to have cash on there. They’ve also got some good cash rates that come through. What we do like about them is their independence; they’re not an insurance company that could disappear. The structure is really good. Some platforms require you to have a Sipp, but not Transact.’

Runner up for the Investments award was Novia. Paul Ross of Lincolnshire-based Landmark IFA notes that the platform offers somewhere in the region of 2000 funds as well as a number of DFMs. ‘From what I understand, around 90% of IFAs are using DFMs on there. There’s a wide spread of funds, they’re cost effective, easy to use and their administration support is very efficient.’

Ascentric was placed third in the Investments category.

James Priday, director of Exeter-based Prydis Wealth, says the firm did extensive due diligence on the platform and found it to offer the most open architecture.

‘They’re pretty open [to ideas]. You can suggest a fund they don’t have, or a specific class of a fund and they’ll try and get it on. Our clients tend to be a bit higher net worth, using direct equities, investment bonds, exchange traded funds (ETFs) etc.

‘We can consolidate them and can see them with all other investments on the wrap. [Ascentric] is head and shoulders ahead of other platforms. For us, although they’re backed by Royal London Group, they don’t have the same conflict of interest [as some life companies-backed platforms].

’More than 3,000 funds are available os Ascentric, from over 260 fund managers as well as access to ETFs, investment trusts, bonds, gilts, equities and cash.