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Cast the net offshore

The internet has revolutionised the way IFAs are doing business. Current

financial information is always readily accessible at the touch of a

button, sales aids and literature are available to download at a moment&#39s

notice, illustrations can be carried out in seconds and IFAs can manage

their entire portfolios online. Is this the reality? No.

Product providers have promised all these functions since grasping the

potential of the internet lastcentury. However, few websites have supplied

the IFA with any considerable business support. Indeed, many sites perplex

us with complicated navigation, superfluous animation and redundant

information which only serve to confuse the end-user.

It must be said that many of these sites look fantastic. If you had a

budget of hundreds of thousands of pounds your website would look fantastic

too. But many lack any real depth or value to the IFA. They are, in

essence, on-screen glossy brochures.

Many companies have come into the internet race like the White Rabbit from

Alice in Wonderland – scurrying around busily, crying “We&#39re late, We&#39re

late!”

As a result, they seem to be throwing vast sums of money at website

designers who are far too preoccupied designing state of the art sites

which look great but neglect the nature of what the tool was originally

intended for – making our jobs easier.

This is particularly the case in the offshore financial market. IFAs

working from offices around the world rely heavily on remote communication.

This is nothing new. Even before the internet and email, IFAs were

dependent on reliable accurate information. But they were limited in how

they got the information and this is the fundamental point. They used tools

– and, let&#39s face it, very little has changed since the internet phenomenon

– such as the humble telephone, fax and, if you can cast your mind back far

enough, telex. These media were, and still are, rather unexciting but they

accomplish the jobs to get fast, reliable and accurate information from A

to B. So has anything really changed?

As the worldwide web has broken down international barriers and vastly

eased our means of communication around the globe, many international

product providers have missed out on an exceptional service opportunity –

using the internet to deliver the offshore IFA with an extra means to sell

business.

As ever, there are some exceptions to the rule. Norwich Union

International, for instance, entered the internet fray earlier this year –

after the launch of their company – with a comprehensive and well-designed

website.

This site offers registered IFAs facilities to generate online quotations

and get up-to-date valuations and commission details.

Another international product provider has created a screensaver which can

be downloaded from its website and updated on a daily basis.

This screensaver not only gives the user regular updates of market

movements, it also provides daily headline news from Bloomberg.co.uk, with

hyperlinks to the Bloomberg site and downloadable literature.

Further developments could include an IFA extranet facility that will

enable the interrogation of client portfolios and the executionof switching

online.

Hopefully, more product providers will soon realise the tremendous

benefits to themselves and to IFAs worldwide in developing their glossy,

plastic, corporate websites into real business tools. The industry is

crying out for more function and less fluff.

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