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E-commerce is increasingly causing significant changes in the ways that many financial advisers run their businesses. More and more services are now being launched that actually deliver on the promised potential of technology for our industry. Consequently, it is becoming increasingly important for advisers to understand those providers which are delivering the best technology solutions in different product areas.

The e-Excellence ratings process is specifically designed to meet this need by delivering impartial, objective ratings of provider services against a consistent benchmark that has been defined with the active involvement of experienced advisers. This gives advisers who consider efficient servicing and processing an important factor an independent quality measurement they can look for when selecting their preferred partners.

For our annuities and income drawdown studies, we worked with an illustrious panel of adviser firms, including Alexander Forbes, Hargreaves Lansdown, ProAct, Origen, Sesame, Sifa and Towry Law, to identify the areas that were of greatest priority for e-commerce services in order to improve efficiency, client service and profitability.

We were also assisted by one of the leading pension specialists in the industry, former Sofa director Jo Smith from specialist consultants The Retirement Maze.

The e-Excellence studies follow a consistent format in the way in which they are constructed. Initially, FTRC creates a summary of key issues related to efficient business practice in the subject area. We then workshop these issues with the advisers in order to agree those issues it is most important to address in the survey. In addition, we begin to construct the scoring matrix which will be applied to each response received from product providers.

It is the provider’s score against this matrix that ultimately defined the e-Excellence rating that will be awarded to each provider.

An additional part of the e-Excellence process has been introduced with these latest ratings as we now also hold dedicated workshops with product providers interested in the products that are the subject of the research. In this instance, Legal & General, Scottish Equitable and Scottish Widows participated in this workshop. This was found to be a very valuable session and will be repeated in future e-Excellence surveys.

For obvious reasons, the providers do not have input into the scoring matrix which is solely defined by the advisers and FTRC.

After collating the responses from providers, we conduct further workshops and one to one discussions with the participating advisers. The adviser input to both the pre- and post-survey workshops is captured in detail and forms part of the full e-Excellence survey reports which document all the information comparing providers services in all the areas measured together with the adviser’s views.

These documents typically run to more than 50 pages and are packed with charts comparing all the relevant features in different life companies services and details of the adviser’s views on those services that will have the greatest influence on provider selection. Further information on the various e-Excellence surveys can be found at http://www.ftrc. co.uk/research/default.asp.

The development of e-commerce services is not an overnight activity. Today’s ratings are on the basis of services live at the beginning of September. New and enhanced e-commerce services are being launched by product providers all the time and it is important that we are able to take this into account. An essential part of the e-Excellence process is the re-rating capability. When providers launch new or enhanced services, they can provide details of these for examination so that a new or revised rating can be given. See page 13 for this months re-ratings.

In closing, I would like to thank all the advisers who worked with us on this research and particularly Jo Smith from Retirement Maze. Anyone who would like to know more about the e-Excellence process should visit http://www.ftrc. co.uk/ e_excellence/default.asp or contact Samantha Smith on 020 7863 0863 or by email at samanth.smith@ftrc.co.uk.

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