Amid the direct to consumer headlines is this a genuine USP from Standard Life?

Standard Life gave a briefing this week about its platform plans at its wee offices in the Gherkin in the City of London. The Money Debate attended. Among other things, it has announced a D to C platform which made a few headlines this afternoon. This has traditionally been a tricky move for insurers with IFAs worrying about losing clients to a business partner which is also a rival. Standard may have come up with the perfect way to sugar the pill. Certainly from what it said this week, it will harness its  asset gathering operation through things such as auto-enrolment, try and use that to encourage other investing, and when customers have enough assets to need advice they plan to refer them on to advisers who use the platform.There will be some details to be thrashed out of course. No doubt Standard will want to ensure the advisers it refers business to, don’t suddenly shift the assets to Transact or the like, though I’m not sure you can put that in a contract.  The usual devilish details and some unusual ones will no doubt apply.

Yet it is quite some offer and it will be fascinating to see how it works in practice.

Here is the key quote from Standard Life MD Richard Charnock. “Through a process we will work out who is advised and who is not, and for those that are not, if there is something that engages them through a self-serve proposition at the lowest level, perhaps selecting an Isa through us, that creates a pool or a franchise if you like that can then be referred over to our IFAs. Suddenly, IFAs that partner with Standard Life can see the benefit of future referral business coming their way.”

If they deliver on this, it is quite a compelling message. For their advisers, they do the difficult job of gathering assets, cost effectively, and pass them on. Now were I an adviser considering using the Standard platform, I would ask a lot of questions about this, along with the other essential due diligence. But if it works, it could be a real example of an acronym that is often abused in financial services – a USP.

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