2020 will go down as one of the more demanding years in living memory with an unprecedented level of personal and business turmoil across the world. Our hearts go out to all those whose lives have been forever blighted by the consequences of COVID-19, whether through the passing of loved ones, financial hardship or having to deal with the personal challenges and mental health consequences of isolation during lockdown.
Against this backdrop, I have been nothing but humbled by the dedication, resilience, passion and single-minded focus of all my colleagues across Quilter to deliver against the odds. They have not only met the expectations of all our stakeholders but have risen to the challenge of ensuring that, despite the unprecedented environment, 2020 was business-as-normal when it came to delivering for our customers, executing upon our strategic plans or just being there to support one another.
The four things that characterised Quilter through the crisis were:
- our focus on the welfare of our colleagues, advisers, customers and charitable partners;
- a focus on maintaining continuity of customer service at a high level and ensuring operational resilience;
- our financial resilience, with an unrelenting focus on costs and efficiency, coupled with strong liquidity following the sale of Quilter Life Assurance; and
- our continued strategic delivery including delivering PTP, implementing our new General Ledger and adviser payments system as well as integrating the advice acquisitions made in 2019.
I am also pleased that our work has been recognised across the industry through the various awards we have won this year. In particular, being named “Company of the Year” in the recent FT Adviser service awards, retaining Quilter Financial Planning’s spot as the UK’s number one financial advice firm and more recently, Quilter Cheviot being awarded wealth manager of the year in the Professional Adviser Wealth Partnership Awards.
2020 was a year that presented many challenges but our people have risen to them and have come through stronger with our business better positioned. The future has arrived early, and we have embraced it.
There are three strands to our strategic transformation agenda at Quilter and the more uncertain environment makes our focus on execution even more resolute:
- we will leverage the transformational power of our new UK Platform to deliver faster growth and productivity;
- we will make Quilter a simpler business, focused on customer to drive even better customer outcomes; and
- we will optimise our business by completing the cost reduction plans we set out in March 2019 to drive operational leverage.
I am delighted to report that PTP has been successfully completed with the final migration occurring just after year end in February 2021, during a full UK lockdown. This followed a successful initial migration of c.8% of the total platform assets in February 2020 which demonstrated that our platform technology worked well at scale and proved our ability to undertake a large migration in a safe and controlled manner. Our second migration completed in November 2020, in line with the revised timeline we set out in response to changed circumstances arising from COVID-19. That migration covered the majority (c.70%) of total platform assets and c.2,000 adviser firms. Finally, around 5,000 adviser firms were involved in the last migration in February 2021. In a number of instances, firms in this last migration do not use Quilter as a primary platform and we anticipate that their successful transfer onto our market-leading technology will be a gateway to a stronger business relationship over time.
Each migration followed the same rigorous approach:
- intense planning and validation of our readiness plans ahead of migration, incorporating a number of dry runs and dress rehearsals;
- elevated post-migration customer and adviser support in the immediate postmigration period; and
- incorporating adviser feedback to drive system improvements and embedding lessons learned from each migration into our planning for the next migration.
Successful platform migrations on this scale are rare and they are rare for a reason given their complex organisational, logistical and technological demands. We are pleased to have not only successfully completed this programme safely but to also have embedded the core competencies for a transformation project of this scale into our core business skillset.
We are delighted to have reached this milestone and our unique combination of flexible product wrappers, sophisticated management of investment solutions and range of tools, all built on robust new technology, delivers an advanced platform experience for the intermediary community. We have already received excellent feedback on day-to-day usability, simplicity of portfolio management as well as our bespoke reporting features. Each of these are designed to make an adviser’s life easier. Our award-winning technical expertise has supported advisers to quickly adapt to fully use the Platform’s capability which, coupled with our commitment to service, delivers a market leading offering.
Turning to Quilter Financial Planning, our focus has been on integrating the acquisitions we made in 2019. Charles Derby was re-branded to Quilter Financial Advisers, our mass affluent National business. The integration of Lighthouse is largely complete with advisers adopting the Quilter Financial Planners proposition, advice standards and technology. The generation of new client leads through our affinity relationships has remained strong despite the inevitable impact of COVID-19.
I appointed Stephen Gazard as Chief Executive Officer of Quilter Financial Planning in June with a view to repositioning the business to drive stronger net flows from a more productive base of advisers. Over the last five years we have built up a strong, hard to replicate, advice business focused on delivering good customer outcomes. Stephen’s focus is straightforward: to take our existing strong franchise and simplify it to deliver cost effective, client focused propositions that deliver good outcomes to our customers. This makes the next stage of Quilter Financial Planning’s evolution a very exciting one. While this will lead to certain advisers who are either not fully aligned with our proposition or who lack sufficient scale or strategic alignment leaving the business in 2021, we will have a simpler, higher growth business delivering quality-assured client outcomes to an even higher level of consistency.
In line with these plans to simplify our business and better align our resources to our principal customer groupings, we will transfer Quilter Private Client Advisers into Quilter Cheviot later this year. Combining these businesses will allow us to deliver a seamless proposition encompassing advice and bespoke investment management. Where desired, this will ensure integrated delivery of good client outcomes while helping us maximise the growth potential within our higher net worth proposition.
I am also pleased to announce that, subject to regulatory approval, Steven Levin will be taking on an additional role as CEO of Quilter Investors while maintaining his existing responsibilities for the Quilter Investment Platform. As we seek to drive growth and efficiency across Quilter, we believe it makes sense to bring these two parts of our organisation closer together. I have tasked
Steven with simplifying the client experience and ensuring a seamless approach to customer pricing and proposition development to further drive and deliver good customer outcomes.
We have also simplified and broadened the Quilter Investors product range through fund consolidation and new product launches, including our new multi-asset income suite and Cirilium Blend proposition. Both of these new investment propositions have significant assets under management and are performing well versus peers.
Our Optimisation programme continues to progress in line with plan. There are three strands to Optimisation:
- driving closer integration of capabilities across Quilter;
- rationalising technology and discretionary spend processes; and
- driving efficiency as interdependencies are streamlined.
Our net Optimisation run-rate savings increased by £22 million from the end 2019 level, to total run-rate savings of £46 million to date and are ahead of where we expected to be at this point. While we delayed some staff restructuring activities at the outset of the COVID-19 situation, good progress on the overall programme has been maintained. Notably, we took completion of our new London property in August and exited all three of our legacy London sites in 2020. Although COVID-19 lockdowns have limited our ability to make the most of our new space, I am excited by the opportunities to collaborate that it will provide once we are able to return to the office.