It is always great to come across a software provider going the extra mile to make sure it maximises the benefit users get from its services. Durell may not be one of the better known adviser systems but I was impressed by a recent run -through of its system with founding director Robert White.
The company has recently made a member of its team responsible for monitoring the number of errors its customers experience using contract enquiry online valuation services.
Where message failures are taking place, firms are contacted to try to resolve any issues. The ability to access the latest values and other details about a client’s investments in seconds, whenever the information is needed, will be an important service for advisers looking to deliver higher levels of service at lower cost after the RDR.
This capability has existed for many years but success rates among different organisations can be startlingly different. Error rates vary from 30 per cent to 2 per cent.
In practice, even the lower figure is higher than it should be although experience has shown that once firms get the service working properly, it can be of huge value. Because of the considerable variation in the processes different insurers have put in place to operate services, experience has shown that firms usually benefit from support from their software provider. I applaud this initiative by Durell and the free monthly training sessions it offers at its offices. This is an approach other software companies might do well to consider.
Training and active monitoring are far from the only thing Durell’s system has going for it. Over the last year or so, valuable new services have been added, not least the client-facing services. These have been optimised so they can be used by clients on iPads and similar devices as well as over a PC-based browser.
They offer the customer, via the adviser’s website, valuations, policy schedules, access to documentation and fact-finds. The client information is extracted from the system in the adviser’s office as opposed to being hosted separately on the web. This is a feature I am told some Durell users have found reass-uring as they believe it allows them to maintain greater control over data.
The client valuation feature in the customer website allows users to see the value of their investments in real time.
This is backed up by a feed from Financial Express if the contract enquiry message fails. In such circumstances, a warning is displayed that the price has been updated but not the units. A portfolio analysis feature produces a history of valuations. Investments can be broken down by type, sector and risk and the individual performance of each can be measured and charted.
As many as four different wrap platforms per client can also be included so Durell is clearly recognising the significant shift in power that is likely to take place in coming years.
Durell has always delivered a system that aims to meet the needs of those firms that operate in the personal lines and commercial insurance markets and there are tools that allow the creation of comparative quotations for these products without the need to rekey existing client data.
In addition, a document management application also allows the adviser to share access to supporting paperwork concerning their relationship with the client, such as copes of quotes and suitability letters. The adviser can select exactly which documents will be available to the client in this way and add or remove them as appropriate. This infrastructure also includes secure messaging with the client, so that there can be no risk of breaching data security or data protection obligations.
In the run-up to the RDR, it is worth mentioning that the system has long been able to provide a full accounts system for advisers, including VAT, regular payments and retainers as well as running multiple client timers, so an adviser can be interrupted to time a client call without charging the client the adviser was working on when the call was received.
The fact-find can be fully user-defined and is designed so that it will appear in exactly the same way on the user’s PC, on paper and over the internet. I can see this being particularly useful where networks insist on factfind being replicated precisely, even if the adviser wants to use it with clients online.
With the inevitable pressure on costs that the RDR will bring, I can see more and more advisers encouraging clients to update factfinds online and conduct client meetings remotely, with each party accessing information online.
At the moment, these facilities do not include screen-sharing capabilities but it is easy to see how these could be added. In addition, Durell has over the last year added a significant range of financial planning tools. While these have currently been built for use by advisers, they are coded so they could be deployed online as part of a collaborative serving module. This is an area where I see there will be strong adviser demand in the next couple of years, even if many of the firms which may eventually move this way may not yet see that need.
Overall, Durell is providing an excellent combination of investment and general insurance services which can be deployed within adviser firms and across the internet including mobile devices.
The system is clearly well placed for the future and should be given serious consideration by any adviser looking to put together a short list for a new or replacement system.
Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre