Despite its lofty scale IOOF won’t be building a single proprietary technology system that does everything for advisers, and will instead retain a traditional tech stack built around the Wealth Central advice tool it purchased in September 2020.

Rumours that the group is looking to expand Wealth Central into a full-suite customer relationship tool that would supplant Iress’ Xplan are off the mark, according to head of advice Darren Whereat (pictured).

Trying to “stretch” software to do it all doesn’t work, he explains, for several reasons.

“If you try and stretch a single piece of technology too far, the first thing is the development required to take it market… the timeline is just elongated so you miss opportunities,” Whereat tells Professional Planner. “The second thing is – and I’ve seen it before – if you stretch technology too far it breaks. It’s never going to be the best at everything.”

The strategy matters because, given IOOF’s acquisitions of ANZ and NAB’s advice arms, the group’s technology suite is likely to be the most widely used in the country in the short to medium term. To that end, Whereat says the group is in the middle of a “staged rollout plan” where Wealth Central is presented to licensees as they onboard.

The suite is “embedded” in its legacy owned Bridges dealer group, he explains, and has “high adoption rates” across former ANZ groups Millennium 3 and RI Advice, which were acquired as part of the 2017 ANZ deal.

“Now we have a plan to roll it out for the Godfrey Pembroke and the tenfifty networks as well,” he continues.

According to IOOF’s head of advice innovation, Joncarl La Rosa, around 35 per cent of IOOF’s adviser force are already using its Wealth Central software.

La Rosa says the group uses a team of practice consultants to go out and explain the software to advisers. “Their role has traditionally been focussed on Xplan,” he says, “but obviously with Wealth Central that role now focusses on the embedding of this solution as part of that rollout as well.”

Whereat says the MLC network in particular has a “thirst” for information about the Wealth Central suite, which incorporates a client portal and an in-house version of Moneysoft’s cashflow software as well as the typical advice modelling, profiling and forecasting tools. “There’s a real desire for it to be embedded in the system,” he says.

That doesn’t mean the new suite is for everyone, he adds. “There are some firms, even in our own shop, that just want use a bit of it.”

Careful leverage

IOOF is set to become the largest advice group in the country as its nearest competitor, AMP, winds back its wealth arm. In January HFS Consulting reported IOOF had 1,249 advisers compared to AMP’s 1,598, with the gap narrowing as multiple MLC groups drift towards the IOOF group.

This kind of scale is rare in advice, and while CEO Renato Mota insists the group isn’t chasing scale simply to be the biggest, it does mean IOOF has the capitol and the resources to try new things – like developing a full suite CRM to replace Xplan.

According to Whereat, however, over-reaching with technology usually doesn’t go so well.

“There is software in the market that is stretched too far,” he says. “It started out for its primary purpose and then it tried to become all things to everybody.”

The group won’t make the same mistake with Wealth Central, he says, but that doesn’t mean it won’t expand the service.

“We’d be pretty naïve to think that we could stretch this single piece of technology to be the best in every space, but ultimately somewhere down the track if we keep building it out it is going to encroach over traditional software that is available in the market and at that time we’ll make the appropriate decision.”

For now, the technology focus at IOOF remains on the existing rollout to advisers.

La Rosa says the biggest hurdle the group faces at the moment is having enough time and patience to execute the rollout effectively.

“We’ll get there over time,” he says. “But if we can’t do it I don’t know who the hell can.”

Tahn Sharpe is a Sydney-based financial services journalist with a background in financial planning. He writes on advice, superannuation, investment, banking and insurance issues, is a certified SMSF Adviser and holds an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning. Contact at [email protected]
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