ING Australia’s commitment to IWL and its Visiplan software is weakening. ING-owned dealer Millennium 3 is currently looking at its front-end options, despite the ING Australia Group entering a major contract with IWL in September 2001 for all its associated dealers including RetireInvest, Tandem and Millennium 3 to use Visiplan.

This follows ING’s recent deal with rival front-end software provider Xplan to deliver an online limited advice solution and Tandem’s decision in July last year to also run with Xplan. Back in 2001, IWL chief Otto Buttula, described the group’s deal with ING as “the largest single licensing agreement entered into so far”, but the roll-out and widespread acceptance of Visiplan by ING’s advisers has been slow with some said to complain about a lack of support and functionality. At present, Millennium 3 uses a range of software including Visiplan for financial planning, and ProPlanner and IDT’s Risk Architect for life. According to Ken Hanlon, Millennium 3 chief, the group is also considering adding Xplan to the list this year. “Visiplan is a satisfactory tool and a reasonable system but it lacks risk capabilities,” Hanlon said. He defended Visiplan’s capabilities, stating none of the group’s advisers had complained about “functionality”, but added that the absence of a risk tool was a real “shortcoming”. In 2003, IWL added Boss Software’s life research to Visiplan, but Xplan’s risk comparator tool, provided by Cannex, is fully integrated into the system. Hanlon did not rule out the possibility of leveraging off ING’s relationships in order to gain scale and cost benefits. “We will happily run off the back of ING if they have a volume agreement that delivers a price better than we can negotiate on our own, and if the technology suits our advisers,” Hanlon said. “Having said that, what ING is doing does not drive our decision making. We are driven by what is the most appropriate solution for our advisers.” This year sister dealer Tandem is set to aggressively migrate its advisers onto Xplan from VisiPlan. Around 70 per cent of Tandem’s 70-plus advisers currently use Visiplan with the remaining 30 per cent on Xplan, but that those percentages are about to change, Andrew Doquile, Tandem general manager, said. “We have mandated that this year, advisers will use Xplan,” he said. “Visiplan is incapable of doing what we need it to.” ANZ Financial Planning is also in the midst of a front-end tender with the group’s chief Mike Goodall – incidentally the former head of Partnership Planning rebranded Tandem in 2002 – set to announce a winner by March. Goodall admitted he had been in discussions with ING about its arrangements and also said ANZ was “still considering” the possibility of leveraging off ING’s solutions. For now, Xplan’s newest deal with ING will provide a customised, simplified version of its financial planning software to ING’s advisers via ING’s Adviser Advantage portal. According to Dan Powell, ING’s executive director of sales and marketing, advisers will be able to generate a simple statement of advice (SOA) in just 20 minutes when a full SOA is not warranted or required. The service also provides a fact-finder and modelling tools. ING considered a number of front-end providers before settling on web-based Xplan, which Powell describes as “on a similar thinking page to us”. He rejected suggestions the deal would negatively impact on the group’s relationship with IWL. “The adviser software used by a national dealer is far more integrated with practice management, the approved list and compliance. The new limited advice solution is a tool for advisers. It is a light version of Xplan and doesn’t replace the dealer front-end,” Powell said. Buttula was unavailable for comment.

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