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Positive thinking

It is often said that advisers are reluctant to use new technology. Anybody who makes such a statement has never met Positive Solutions.

The company is growing at a blistering pace and has made leading-edge technology a central part of its proposition.

It has about 1,100 adv-isers and continues to lead the way in cutting costs through the efficient use of technology.

With the rest of the ind-ustry talking about accessing online valuations for clients using the contract enquiry standards, Positive pressed ahead with a tactical solution to deliver this information to its advisers well in advance of other adviser firms.

How many other firms can claim that each of its advisers has their own dedicated extranet service which clients can access for the latest values on their life, pension and fund management products?

The launch last autumn of Positive Solutions’ Intuitive system continues this trend. Based on the Microsoft Windows tablet technology and using the latest Microsoft.Net software, this system provides a front end to complement the market-leading extra-net service.

All the firm’s advisers were upgraded to the new software by January 31 and this is complimented by the rollout of Fujitsu-Sie-mens tablet PCs to replace traditional notebook PCs. All these tablet PCs are also fitted with Vodafone 3G datacards.

IntuITive provides advi-sers with local PC records of the diary and fact-find functionality replicating the information held on the Positive Solutions extranet.

This can be synchronised with the central database using the 3G card. If 3G connectivity is not available, the datacard swit-ches to the GPRS phone network and is available wherever a mobile phone signal can be obtained.

Advisers’ PAs also have access to the system so they can arrange appointments and pre-populate data to client fact-finds. When organising appointments, users can simply drag the client’s details from the client list and drop them onto the diary. The appointment in the system is automatically pre-populated with the client’s contact details.

When you have an ext-ranet service with the benefits of Positive Solutions’ client extranet, it would be foolish not to build it into the client acquisition pro-cess so the system provides a demonstration of the client extranet to show that as a client of a Positive Solutions adviser, the consumer has online acc-ess to a full summary of their portfolio at any time and can drill down further to access details of individual holdings in each contract.

During the past year, Positive has added an interface to the EMX fund management valuation service in addition to other links from fund supermarkets and various links from life insurers. The net result is that Positive’s advisers can access valuations from a universe of providers unequalled by any other adviser or IFA software provider.

Another important feature that advisers would normally demonstrate to potential clients would be the online fact-find capability. This allows the client to access their last completed fact-find at any time online and update their information.

Positive’s advisers frequently ask clients to go online to update this in advance of appointments so that they can be working on the very latest information. As this is supplied to the adviser in advance, it can accelerate the advice process, allowing the adv-iser to arrive at the first review meeting with an understanding of the cli-ent’s latest position and prepare recommendations in advance based on those circumstances.

This can significantly reduce the number of meetings necessary to give advice and execute client instructions.

Microsoft’s development languages have not always had the reputation for being the easiest tools to work with but Positive head of IT development Richard Clarke enthuses about the platform. He says: “Net does exactly what is says on the tin, it is easy to use and fast to develop with.”

Intuitive really starts to flex its muscles when you get to completing the fact-find. As it is based on the tablet PC format, an electronic version of the factfind is represented just as it would be on paper, that is, like an A4 document.

To enter information, the adviser simply writes on the tablet PC with a stylus as they would a pen on paper. Not content with taking advantage of the considerable enhancements to tablet PC delivered by Microsoft with the latest service pack 2 version of Windows XP, Positive has developed enhancements to make it even easier to use. For example, the content of any dropdown boxes are transferred automatically to the data entry window.

Additional development has also been carried out to allow a different configuration for left-handed users as this was origin-ally found to be a difficulty during testing.

Intuitive also provides a link to the dedicated adviser extranet My Office, providing users with full access to pipeline tracking, commission and electronic document management to access images of any paper correspondence or other documents.

Intuitive also provides a suitability letter generator which takes details from appropriate parts of the fact-find and populates this, combined with suitable standard paragraphs, to create the appropriate documentation for the client following any recommendation.

The adviser can then work from the assembled text to craft a specific recommendation wording for each individual client.

The next version of Intuitive, due in the second half of the year, will focus on bringing the desktop software and My Office into a single interface.

It will also introduce additional client management tools to allow closer management of sales opp-ortunities to both existing clients and prospects. This can generate a specific report covering all targets for a particular campaign but removing them from the report as appointments are made using the same drag and drop function that is included in the factfind software.

At the same time, the next release will also provide more detailed pre-population of data from both the fact-find and quotation elements into electronic applications.

With this sort of innovation, it is hardly surprising that Positive Solutions scooped not only the Best Use of New Media title but also the Best Technology IFA title at this year’s Money Marketing awards.

As the chairman of the judging panel for both these awards, the reality is that, having viewed My Office and Intuitive, the only question open to the judges is who comes second.

If you are an IFA who sees technology as an imp-ortant part of your future, you simply have to see this system at an industry event this year. It sets the standard against which all other adviser software should be measured.

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