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Document download

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form is out of date and they need to get a new one completed and signed by

the client.

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

service.

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&#39s 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

document changes.

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

features document?

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

deliver savings.

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

The Exchange.

He can be contacted by email at ianm@financialtechnology.net

Tel: 020 7935-2599

Fax: 020 7935-2995

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