I wrote recently about the challenge advisers face with the somewhat laborious and antiquated system of obtaining client information in respect of existing financial products via a letter of authority.
Weeks of delay seem to be built in to the agency system so that any attempt to deliver an advice report to a client in a timely fashion is completely frustrated. Why, I asked, in this day and age of technology support, can a client not simply go online and change the agency of their financial product, thus allowing the new adviser to access the data they need online as well?
Following publication of the piece, I received a call from Origo general manager Garry Miller and was both surprised and delighted to learn that at least two product providers actually allow this to happen. I am told Standard Life and Aegon have an online letter of authority system that does not require any kind of paper version to be signed by the client. The adviser completes the letter of authority and the agency is changed within a couple of days.
I have not yet put this into practice myself but my administration colleagues seem rather excited by the prospect of doing so. I have just engaged this morning with a new client who has an Aegon plan, so I will write on this again once I have tested it out.
I asked Garry what he thought about the security side of this online approach and his answer was most refreshing. It is all about the provider trusting the adviser to have the client’s permission to do this. When you think about it, I guess most providers do not cross reference the letter of authority signature with any client signature they have on file, so there is an element of trust already built into the manual process.
This is the kind of use of technology that is really going to help the adviser community, so well done Origo and the product providers supporting it. If we can strip a couple of weeks or so delay out of the time it takes to deliver advice that will be of real benefit to the client. After all, once they have decided they want our professional services they will pretty much want it delivered straight away.
All we need now is product providers that can attach the requested pro-forma to an email within 10 minutes of being asked, rather than the 10 to 30-day delay they often quote as usual business standards and we will be motoring along quite nicely.
Incidentally, on the topic of technology, my personal struggle continues. This week, I managed to drop my iPhone in a washing up bowl. I no longer scoff at the TV advertisement for waterproof phones. Interestingly, I received absolutely no praise for doing the washing up but a lot of flack for being clumsy and stupid. To be fair, having left my previous phone on the roof of my car and driven off without it my track record is pretty poor.
Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice