One of the perennial problems for IFAs is making sure they have an
adequate supply of fully up to date literature from product providers.
Brochures, application forms, generic key features documents and many more
change on a regular basis and, with the advent of Saltr and the formal
adoption of the new FSA rulebook at N2, there will countless minor changes
to these documents over the coming months.
Not only will this mean more paper but advisers will also need to make
sure they have thrown out the old stock and obtained new ones. Possibly the
most frustrating experience as an adviser is to sign up some new business
and submit it, only to have the product provider come back and say that the
form is out of date and they need to get a new one completed and signed by
All this paper takes up space and the cost of storing thousands of
documents for a wide range of product providers is no small issue.
A number of national IFAs have created mailing centres dedicated to
maintaining and distributing documents to clients as a way of seeking to
control these expenses.
Smaller firms will not be likely to have the scale to justify such
investment but still have to deal with the issue. One way to resolve the
problem is to download documents each time you need them from an online
In my view, one of the great unsung heroes of financial services
e-commerce is Gordon Burns of Silverquick, who has for many years run the FinServ UK list discussion forums. For those who do not know them, these are emai
l-based forums where anyone involved in the industry can post messages to
discuss a wide range of industry topics.
In addition to the main list, there are lists to deal with areas such as
product-related questions (for example, who will offer waiver premium for a
67-year-old or look favourably at certain medical conditions), technology
issues and a list on professional qualifications.
These are known as FinServ Oracle and FinServ E-Comm and FinServ Pro
respectively. All these forums are free to industry professionals. Burns
also hosts the email-based eXweb user list and DBS Technology list. This
all adds up to a substantial contribution to the market.
His latest venture is a service known as the Insight Document Server. The
aim is to enable IFAs to access a wide range of documents with just four
mouse clicks from the www.documentserver.co.UK website. The service is in a
public beta testing mode and last week I gave it a try.
It is suitable for any standard document such as generic KFDs and
applications, etc. The service cannot, however, produce client-specific key
features or illustrations so you still need to go to an IFA portal or a
provider's website for these. Such other services will have libraries of
downloadable generic documents but the advantage of the ones from the new
Insight service is that they are customised to show the name and address
details of the IFA. In future, this may also be able to include IFA logos.
The service will also create links so IFAs can embed such customised
documents in their own consumer websites. This offers product providers the
significant economy of making such changes once, as Insight will
automatically populate all the sites of the IFAs who have used the service
rather than having to do individual changes on a per IFA basis each time a
The service can use Origo Remote Publishing standards but this is not
mandatory which means it can be used by product providers who have not yet
adopted these standards or those (such as fund management groups) that have
chosen to use a standards provider other than Origo. This is particularly
encouraging as it recognises that while standards can be beneficial they
are not more important than the actual ability to do business. This is a
lesson that Origo itself would do well to learn.
Ultimately, the success of this service will very much depend on whether
it can attract sufficient providers to achieve critical mass so that IFAs
can access all the documents they want from within the service.
It could be said that this provides a level of functionality that should
really have been provided by the main IFA portal in the past, indeed, the
functionality that the Insight Document Server is providing would probably
be best located within a wider portal.
I am aware that it is in discussions with at least one of the major
portals along these lines. Equally, providers offering KFDs and proposals
from their own websites should have such functionality themselves.
For the time being, the question is does the service – primarily
personalising key features documents and applications to include the IFAs
own details preprinted – add sufficient additional benefit for the adviser
to make it worthwhile to get a client-specific illustration from one of the
main portals and then to go to Insight to get the IFA-branded generic key
It is a positive thing that this service can help both life and pensions
and managed fund product providers. With one or two very notable
exceptions, the latter group tends to lag substantially behind the former
and this could be a valuable source of help to many smaller fund managers.
I suspect that the most successful element of this service initially will
be helping IFAs prepopulate their own client websites with customised
documents and reducing the burden on IT departments, which will be getting
ever increasing numbers of requests from IFAs for personalisation on an ad
hoc basis. I think that any product provider looking at the business case
for supporting the service might find this the area that is most likely to
Ian McKenna is a consultant and director of the Financial Technology
Research Centre which works for a wide range of industry organisations,
life offices and technology companies, including Microsoft, Assuresoft and
He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 020 7935-2599
Fax: 020 7935-2995