An unexpected bonus

For the past fifteen years here at Clifton we have been investing heavily in building our own technology, often to the point of diminishing our reported profits, so important did we think the project was in allowing us to build a genuinely scalable business.

Clearly technology plays a role in virtually all businesses nowadays, but when you have custody and management of hundreds of millions of pounds of other people’s money it really does matter. Clients expect a seamless onboarding experience combined with access to valuations and other functionality 24/7. Workflows and handovers need to be executed and recorded; monies moved from account to account with absolute accuracy.

Our ambition was to build a best in class customer and user experience where scalability and improved service was not dependent on the old model of an ever increasing headcount, and where a user’s physical location was irrelevant as every single business function, internal or client facing, was to be handled by the end to end systems that we have been building. To achieve this, we set up a special unit within the business, called Clifton Connects, our very own tech hub, who have been toiling away for years to deliver an ever-improving functionality.

Our business growth model revolves around acquiring other advisory businesses across the country and improving both the customer experience and cost base for those customers. We have observed, from a distance, the problems that some acquisitive firms have faced in maintaining cohesion and control over a diverse group of semi-autonomous businesses in many different locations, often leading to diminished client outcomes and in more extreme cases real regulatory issues. We were determined to do things in the correct order, and build our tech foundation first, then go about adding new businesses to the group, thus guaranteeing strong central control and a
completely harmonised client experience.

Of course, talking the talk is one thing, but sooner or later these systems need to be tested in the real world. Having made some reasonably modest acquisitions in the last year or so we were pretty confident that all was working in the way that it should, but we hadn’t had the opportunity to expose the system to real stress. Then along came a global pandemic.

Pretty much overnight we went from an office-based business to one hundred percent home working and were thus completely reliant on our systems functioning perfectly. It was with some trepidation that we switched off the lights and drove away. Could such a sophisticated and inter-dependent functionality suite survive such trauma? Would ‘My Viewpoint’, our client portal, keep delivering valuations and client visibility? Would our in-house CRM continue to deliver seamless
administration and workflows? Well, we were about to find out. Could Clifton exist ‘in the cloud’?

Yes. It worked perfectly, with no interruptions at all and no diminution to either client side or internal functionality. It seems like all those years of investment and development had, in time of crisis, proved to be a prudent and far sighted thing to be doing and we can now rightly claim to have some of the most resilient, relevant and intuitive technology available to investors, pension holders and those seeking to build their wealth in a secure place. Happy with that.

Adam Tavener, Group Chairman.