Technology profile: Nick Eatock, executive chairman, Intelliflo
Rob Kingsbury spoke to Nick Eatock, executive chairman, Intelliflo, about how back-office technology is developing using gaming software and the technology company’s plans for overseas expansion
Intelliflo has a 14-year track record in the industry (it launched in 2004) and its back-office software – Intelligent Office (iO) – was the first to be designed as software as a service (SaaS).
Nick Eatock was chief executive from launch and following sale to a private equity company he became executive chairman. In June 2018 Intelliflo was bought by Invesco Perpetual for an undisclosed sum.
The company has doubled its number of users over the past five years – now at around 20,000 users, with some 2,200 firms using the technology – which, says equates to over 30% market share.
Eatock cites two reasons for the growth. First is the implementation of the Retail Distribution Review from 31 December 2012. This saw financial advice firms look at their businesses and how they could better use technology, as well as become more willing to invest in that technology, Second, at the same time Intelliflo sought private equity investment which helped fuel the company’s growth and enabled further investment in Intelligent Office (iO), which helped power the business forward.
“We also refined our mission statement,” he says, “from our original vision, which was to make adviser businesses more efficient and effective through technology, to also helping them deliver more advice to more people.”
Improving user practices
Essential to the latter has been helping adviser firms improve their use of the iO technology at their fingertips. In May 2018 Intelliflo launched the eAdviser Index, which measures how effectively firms are using Intelligent Office. “What the index has revealed is that the firms that are scoring higher on the index are the ones that are delivering more advice to more people, generating more revenue and also recurring revenue, and bringing on more assets under management.
“It is a clear indicator that if you make use of technology you can build a much more scalable and successful business.”
What’s also helped drive growth of the business, Eatock says, is the way it deals with updates and upgrades to iO. “Until four years ago we issued new releases of the technology several times a year. Four years ago we changed that to a micro-service architecture and we now issue new releases of the software, on average, around eight times a day. That means there are changes every day that make a difference to an adviser or a paraplanner.
“At that time we also launched an ideas portal, which allows our users to register the things they would like to see in the software and the rest of the community can vote on those ideas. The ones with the most votes are the ones we then build. It’s a great way for users to put forward ideas that they think would be helpful and get them built. We call it democratising elements of the software. On average we are releasing one of our users’ ideas into our live environment every three days. In this way the software is evolving in the way that our users want it to.”
To further help firms get the most out of the technology, in August 2016 the company launched an open API, which allows third party developers and also providers and advisers, to integrate with the software. This is done via the iOStore.
“What this means for financial adviser firms is that they can integrate the best of breed software they feel are important to their business, as well as build and integrate their own software, into Intelligent Office to shape it to be what they want it to be – making one cohesive eco-system, with IO at the heart of it,” Eatock explains.
“So it’s not just about the releases we are issuing but also what other businesses can build and integrate with our software to help adviser firms create the businesses they want. Currently, there are over 50 integrated Apps now live on iOStore.”
One of the developments the company has coming through in 2019 is something it is calling ‘gamerfied factfind’.
“It is the idea we put forward which was the most highly rated for development by advisers and paraplanners,” says Eatock.
“This will be a way for adviser firms to get their clients to fill in the entire iO factfind plus any other questions they want, within the iO Personal Finance Portal (PFP). It enables the entire act of factfinding to be done without the adviser being there. And when the adviser meets the client for the first time they will have had all the information in advance, so they can be prepared and focus on adding value rather than on data collection.”
This will provide a way for clients to inform the adviser firm about changes in their lives, helping to conform to the ongoing suitability rules under MiFID II.
“It also will help tie the client closer to the advice firm, as the client can log on whenever they want and have their entire financial view and understanding of their financial situation right there in the portal,” Eatock says.
“Early feedback from user and client working groups has been sensational.”
Also in development, Eatock adds is a “major” management information (MI) project, which will enable greater capability for designing MI reports.
“This is a part of our mission to enable more advisers to service more clients by making their processes more efficient and effective.
“All of these things are a step change in how advisers are interacting with clients which is less about entirely face-to-face; it’s also about digital.”
Plans to grow the business overseas
Eatock says while the company is “pleased with where we’ve got” there is business expansion ahead. “One road is to push into overseas markets.
“We’ve been receiving increasing numbers of enquiries from people overseas wanting to know more about using the technology. It has grown to numbers that we now cannot ignore. We are still deciding on which markets but plans are in place to launch abroad,” Eatock says.
This expansion, in turn, will benefit UK users, he explains. Building technology even if you do it in a very open way as we do – encouraging third parties to integrate with us through API and the iOStore, is still very expensive to do. In the UK marketplace there are around 80,000 potential users. If we can make that become 200,000 or 250,000 by launching abroad, then that increases our revenue and means we can invest so much more in the technology without having to significantly raise the prices for the software.
“And as there will still be a single version of the software, this means everyone will benefit from the investments and enhancements we make.
“When we look at the range of things we need to do for oversees, well over half of them will have a direct massive contribution to the UK service. And some of the things we want to launch next year which we know UK users will love, will be there because of the international market.”
More than technology
While the company continues to invest more in the technology, it’s not just about the product, Eatock points out, “it’s also about the people who deliver iO to the market – the account managers, support staff and training staff – helping adviser firms to get the best out of the software.
“An important part of that is the customer success team, which consists of people who specialise in certain areas of the software. We provide that free to advice firms to help them get the best out of their technology.”
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