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Online opportunity

It was interesting to read a news story not too long ago in which a study found that around 15 per cent of financial advisers are continuing to shun technology by running paper-only practices. More than 120 of the 800 intermediaries surveyed by 1st-The Exchange admitted to “just using paper” to store and manage client data, to which the software provider says the results may be indicative of the sector as a whole.

It is easy, as a technology specialist, to pour scorn on these results but I genu- inely don’t believe figures such as these truly reflect how advisers view technology as a whole, especially in light of the fact that we are currently experiencing unprecedented levels of interest in our sourcing solutions. I certainly don’t believe that advisers are ignoring technology across all aspects of their business.

There are some great client management systems out there but they may not be for everyone. However, where technology is becoming increasingly important in maximising business is at the point of sale rather than back-office systems, however useful they may be.

As the property market is showing encouraging signs of stability with, dare I say it, even some positive sentiment returning, I believe the time is right for IFAs and brokers of all sizes and budgets to capitalise on market-leading, cost-effective online propositions to help build stronger introducer links in order to make the most of current market conditions.

Intermediary firms should be looking to form a number of affiliations – either locally or nationally – with established professional outlets such as estate agents, solicitors and accountants. However, in order to really maximise such links, a strong website and online proposition is a must to attract the right partners in order to drive the business forward.

Having a strong online presence is also a way to target a different market of the ever-growing numbers of web-savvy consumers. By offering a range of service propositions, whether it be online only, fully offline or a combination of the two, will allow the client to decide on the level of interaction. Having these options available enables firms to help those clients that may not necessarily want to be “sold” to but will still enable firms to hold the hands for those that want them held.

Firms of all sizes must maximise their client interaction in terms of service, efficiency and accuracy. An effective and highly accurate online sourcing solution provides more flexible options for the client, ensuring intermediaries maintain a real edge, therefore enabling them to improve referral and retention rates.

We are all fully aware of the need to evolve into holistic financial advisers and technology can aid this to ensure advisers can come quickly up to speed on various sectors of the market thanks to accurate and extensive sourcing and application platforms.

If advisers need to spend lots of time learning mortgage criteria, products and rates, then that is useful time that could be maximised exploring different areas of the market.

Intermediaries need to focus on the advice aspect and the assistance of a system that guides them in giving clients full end-to-end financial advice would prove a great resource, provided they could guarantee that the results were accurate.

This is far from inconceivable in the year 2009 and in an era of online recognition by businesses and consumers alike, this should be the norm rather than the exception.

Paul Fradgley is CEO of Evaluate Technologies

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