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Loose connection

I find it disappointing when life companies do some really good work which is undermined by failing to recognise basic issues about how IFAs work.

By definition, IFAs deal with a wide range of providers. In my experience, advisers want to be able to operate consistent processes which enable them to manage information and client case within their own systems.

Having to train staff to learn to use a diverse range of systems from different insurers adds costs to advisers businesses and is less efficientIn my opinion, Legal & General’s new OLP Connect protection offering falls into this category. This a great shame as there are some excellent features within the proposition.

The service allows users to conduct almost any part of a protection transaction online. As well as enhancing their online underwriting service, by using OLP Connect, advisers can drill deep into Legal & General’s own systems to understand the exact status of any case.

This is produced in real time so information presented to the adviser is fully up to date, reflecting the exact current status of the case. Not only are advisers able to see the current position but the system will also identify future activities that are to take place and when. If medical information has been requested, not only does the adviser know when this was done but they also know when it is going to be chased next.

The adviser can see the full trail of all inbound and outbound communications that have taken place. With the exception of confidential medical information, this includes the ability to view an image or even download copies of any of these documents.

The adviser can take action on virtually any change on a case without the need to contact Legal & General separately. This includes changes of address, putting plans in force or even amendments to underwriting information. In the latter case, there is the facility for the adviser to trigger a tele-underwriting call to the client if this is seen as the preferable way for any significant information to be submitted.

Every field of an application can be edited by the adviser, including doctor’s details. This mean applications can now be submitted and processing start where such information is not available.

This is a major advance in enabling advisers to stay up to date on the progress of an application. Being an online system, it is available almost 24 hours a day, so information is accessible at times when the insurer’s offices are closed.

The level of information provided is outstanding. It would be a great step forward if other insurers were to open up their processing systems in a similar way. When other companies do, and I am in no doubt that this service will trigger such a response, I hope they will recognise the operational challenges that IFAs face in dealing with a wide range of insurers and deliver the information in more effective ways.

What Legal & General have built is, I believe, an excellent system for tied agents, which would also be very attractive to narrow multi-ties. I can also see that IFAs who run volume call-centre operations, where there are different dedicated administration staff to deal with each individual insurer, would also find it very helpful.

But while much of the new system is exceptional, for the vast majority of IFAs, where advisers and support staff have to deal with many different providers, more could have been done to make their lives easier. Yes, they will be able to access far more inform- ation than previously but they will have to make an extra effort to do so.

Advisers have enough new things to learn and having to train on a new Legal & General system may be less than welcome. If a different approach had been taken, the information could have been served up to advisers whenever the status changed.

Clearly, there are some processes where it is appropriate to make changes on the provider’s system.

I believe, based on my work with many IFA firms, that many of the application tracking processes would work better for IFAs if the information were pushed to the adviser’s system whenever a change is made.

Also for some standard changes, such as addresses, where an adviser will need to notify multiple insurers these ought really to be driven from messages out of the adviser’s system, rather than the insurer expecting the adviser to do the work and go into the insurer’s system to change things for them.

OLP Direct is definitely a major move in the right direction, giving advisers access to the same information as in an insurer’s system is a definite step forward.

In my opinion, however, while the concept is good, I believe the execution could still be improved significantly.

To get an opinion on this view, I spoke to Bankhall’s managing director IFA Services, David Golder who told me: “The need to drive down costs and meet TCF obligations mean advisers must maintain their own detailed records. This is most effectively achieved using a client management system.

“This is why we have built detailed integration between Portavista and leading client management systems such as 1st and Quay.

“Providers who really want to help IFAs need to make sure they are also delivering the information where the advisers need it, that is, the client management system, rather than expecting firms to log on to provider systems to monitor cases.”

Money Marketing Protection IFA of the Year Roy McLoughlin supported this view, pointing out: “Legal & General are trying to help, but not in the right way. It would appear they have not understood they best way to engage with IFAs”.

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