Inside Platform Transformation Projects

  • March 15, 2019

Having worked on various platform projects over the years, Anthony Smith gives an inside view on what it's like to work on one.


Since 2009 I seem to have been mostly occupied working on various platform projects, from creating new platforms with inevitable FCA applications, to various CASS projects and most lately platform transformation.

In many cases the alarming behaviour of some executives borders on the delusional. In at least one case the entire executive team departed from the business, as platform transformation also resulted in total leadership transformation. 

Clearly, it is critical to listen to the project managers and people working on the ground to come to a realistic view on what the full extent of the work means in terms of time and resources and then bury some pride and the urge to make ever more ridiculous market statements, in place of a true and purposeful reality check.

Experience also matters a great deal. How often have I come to projects where the programme manager is determined to reject suggestions in the most vigorous manner only to be forced into an embarrassing volte-face after many months of wasted effort? In the end it's a simple matter of chipping away and realising that common sense will prevail as the dead end is finally reached and a brick wall comes slamming into view. Of course, learning comes from experience and we all pick things up along the way, especially when making a mistake. However, sometimes those mistakes have unintended consequences and so the project trundles on infinitum.

The other challenge often comes from so-called 'out-of-the-box' solutions.  Adopt not adapt is the mantra but then the team goes about changing everything and also finding that 'out-of-the-box' is not quite as it seems and other regulatory and legal change and interpretation, requires extensive adaption or even the dreaded 'change requests'.

The inevitable de-scoping and phased approach usually overtakes and 'big bang' goes out of the window. In the meantime the costs rise as expensive project managers and other contractors have to be retained for longer than originally planned, with some essential staff leaving prematurely, which leads to more delays.

In the end the transformation is complete. If it takes longer and causes less disruption then that is better for the adviser and end consumer. If it launches at risk then we all know the consequences and lack of confidence, which ensues. Whether it was all worth it is a matter of debate and had the cost and timescale been known at the outset it is possible the whole thing would never have been started in the first place.

It is important to have experienced project management, which will inevitably have to be brought in. Internal project management is usually woeful. Listen to the experts and create a realistic plan then decide based on the facts. Allow for contingencies and expect changes, as every platform is different and not everything will come off the shelf.  Be prepared to compromise and adapt. For the wider market it is better to launch successfully and late, than to go early and risk disaster.

Written by Anthony Smith

Anthony Smith is a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute (FCII), Associate of the Personal Finance Society (APFS), and Chartered Insurance Practitioner

Anthony has extensive experience working with many leading financial services firms from investment firms to life and pensions, mortgages and general insurance, and he is the Director of AJS Consultancy Services.  He has worked with a number of firms setting up new investment companies and with leading platform providers to ensure compliant CASS processes including changing a bank into a pure investment firm with client money.  Anthony has led a number of Part IV applications for platform providers and developed platform strategies for RDR and direct to customer propositions, as well as acting as interim head of risk and compliance.  He has also worked with the offshore industry in Dublin and on many strategic compliance projects.

Anthony has also developed a number of Risk and Compliance Solutions with Mettis based in Cape Town, south Africa.

To find out more about AJS Consultancy Services click here, or find Anthony on LinkedIn.



£ k