By the time you read this article, Money Marketing readers who are among the 9,000 directly regulated IFA users of the Exchange's Exweb service should have received a letter notifying them of when they will be given access to the new “enhanced” Exweb service.
Rather than taking a big bang approach and putting all new users live simultaneously, the launch is being phased at a rate of 2,000 users a week from the end of June. This is a prudent course of action to avoid undue pressure on technical support lines to answer the inevitable questions that will arise when a new service is made available. Different timescales are being agreed with some major network organisations.
I recently attended one of a series of roadshows that The Exchange is running to explain its new service and also to talk about further functionality that will be added via the Exweb Gold service later in the year. It was clear from the presentation that The Exchange is very keen to be seen as much more than just a quotation service.
In the coming months, users will see them add more and more features to expand the depth of the service they are offering IFAs across the advice process. Rather than being a simple function at the front end, it is aiming to be involved in all areas of the client relationship. The changes in the next few weeks are the latest stage in this process.
Enhanced Exweb fundamentally alters the focus of the Exweb service from a product-based service to a client management tool. In this case, it is adding a simple client address book function. In recent months, the Exweb home page has been amended to show the new “Research, Quote, Buy” menu in blue near the top of the screen. As Enhanced Exweb rolls out, this will change to “Client, Research, Quote, Buy”. Initially, the address book will include contact employer and bank information, and will shortly be extended to include doctor's details.
It has long been the objective of most life offices to persuade IFAs to submit busi- ness to them electronically rather than using paper based applications. There are many reasons this is appealing to providers. A common misconception is that it saves them the cost of employing people to enter the data manually. This has never really been the case and, in the age of outsourced offshore services, the cost of data entry has become virtually irrelevant.
Far more significant is the ability to remove data errors from the process. It is a rather damning fact that, across the IFA community, typically 40 per cent of paper applications cannot be processed by providers when received as information is either missing or conflicting. This is a major cost for providers and the delays inconvenience the adviser and the client.
Electronic new business submission facilities have been around for several years but take-up by advisers has been less than startling. Providers wanted advisers to submit electronically but they did virtually nothing to make electronic trading an easier process for the adviser than paper.
Increasingly, this is beginning to change, not because providers are paying more commission or offering clients better terms for electronic business, although they are, but because there are now real reasons why advisers can work business more efficiently this way.
One of the most significant extensions to the functionality in the new Exweb service is pre-population. Any information entered into the Address Book is automatically transferred to any electronic applications generated using the system.
In a future version, The Exchange says it will also be possible to move information from applications back to the client record.
It would be most welcome if the Exweb interface with IFA Client Management and Back Office systems were extended to include a similar ability to pre-populate and repopulate. Currently, pre-population is allowed from some third-party systems but only for quotations.
To put this into context, if you are an IFA firm which already operates one of the major client administration systems such as Adviser Office from 1st Software, Intelligent Office from Intelliflo or Customer Care Desktop from Quay, you are probably going to want to wait until the new business pre-population services are linked to your software provider of choice.
On the other hand, if you are one of the vast number of IFAs who do not have a client management system, or even have one but do not use it, the new Exweb offering has to be worth a look.
If you do not think that “Enhanced Exweb” sounds like a particularly exciting name for a new product, The Exchange agrees with you.Its reasoning is simple – that the new enhanced product will become its standard offering in the next few months. The price is unaltered at £14 a month, it is just the functionality that has increased.
I have not yet had the opportunity to test the new service but the offer of additional services for the same price as users are already paying sounds an attractive one. Space does not permit me to list all the additional facilities in the enhanced Exweb product so a visit to one of the forthcoming Exchange roadshows, as listed below, could be time well spent. Users can register to attend from the Enhanced Exweb page in the current service. For those who do not have time to attend a demonstration can be accessed from the same page.
After the rollout of the new service, the next release is due to be the Exweb Gold service. This will include, among other things, the delivery of electronic valuations for life insurance bonds and pension products. This can dramatically reduce the amount of time that an adviser has to spend pulling together the information for a client review.
This is promised during the third quarter of the year although, to be fair, this depends as much on providers being able to deliver the links as The Exchange providing the software. In the meantime, enhanced Exweb should give many advisers some significant additional benefits at no extra cost.
Remaining Exchange roadshows
July 6 Edinburgh
July 13 Manchester
July 20 Cobham