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Take your portal pick

In my last two columns, I have looked at a number of issues that advisers should take into account when planning to put a new client management system into their business.

There are many reasons why advisers should install this software but it appears there are still many firms which are operating without any software to store their client records.

Some firms seem to feel that making a single leap to a full client management package is too much to handle. One alternative is to consider an extended portal service which offers limited client management capability. The Exchange recently expanded the capability of Exweb with its Gold proposition but for the 10,000 advisers that are members of one or more of the Bankhall companies, the new Bankhall Online service is clearly worth a good look.

The previous Bankhall off-ering, IFA Engine, was put together in a way which meant that if advisers used any of the products, they pretty much had to use all of it. The new service offers customers the chance to pick and choose the services on the portal. For the increasing number of organisations using any of the Bankhall firms such as Bankhall Investment Associates, Portfolio Member Services, Point One and Premier Advantage, the portal allows them to bring all their Bankhall relationships on to a single interface.

Client records can be maintained in a simple database and there is access to the latest policy valuations and other contract information online from an increasing number of insurers using the Origo industry-standard contract enquiry messages.

To transact business, the adviser can either open an existing client record or start with the creation of a new client and proceed with the new business process all the way to buying the product online.

Many firms maintain their records in simple systems they have set up themselves using Excel spreadsheets or Access databases. Realistically, using non-industry-specific software will inhibit firms from taking advantage of many of the services coming online to make advisers lives easier.

For advisers looking to set up simple client records, there is an easy to use import mapping tool based on the comma separated value format so advisers can import from spreadsheets and CSV downloads available from a number of insurers. If a Bankhall member has previously set up separate client databases using the previous IFA Engine and Point One systems, this tool can also be used to merge and de-duplicate client records.

A simple business register exists as an online day book along with diary and task management tools. These are not, however, yet linked into Mic-rosoft Outlook which would be an obvious natural development. A client query option allows the adviser to generate management information, reports and prospect lists. In addition, this data can be exp-orted to run a separate mark- eting view.

Advisers who have used the electronic version of the Bankhall fact-find will find the data from this is moved across to the client record. For advisers who still prefer to use paper fact-finds, when they have been originally generated from a client record within the system, they can be submitted to Bankhall via a fax gateway which will automatically read a unique reference number originally generated when the fact-find was printed and allocate the faxed image of the document to the correct client record.

Alternatively, advisers can store any document on the client record part of the system using a document scanner and software. These need to be sourced separately as they are not included in the system.

In June, the service will be extended to include a mail merge capability. This will allow users to generate standard form letters within the system which are pre-popul-ated with client information from the client record.

When the document is mer-ged, a copy is automatically added to the client record within Bankhall Online. If further tailoring is required, as the document has been saved to the client record, the adviser can recall the merged document and make further changes.

The contract enquiry service included within the portal pre-populates information to specialist pension planning tools so the adviser can calculate projected income retirement, shortfall from desired income in retirement and different levels of contribution to meet any potential shortfall. This generates a report documenting the client’s position and their options.

Document generation all-ows the creation of all Bank-hall’s template standard letters to be pre-populated with the appropriate information from the client record. These can be edited further, with copies stored on the system when they are printed.

The Bankhall services area gives access to commission information for the preceding two weeks and a range of agency maintenance tasks.

In August, the service will extend to allow remote case management which means smaller firms can operate remote compliance in the way that a number of bigger organisations have been doing for some time by reducing the need for compliance officers to visit advisers. Rather than the need for visits to carry out compliance checks, the adv-iser can store all the relevant documents for a new business case in a single folder under the case management record.

This can then be submitted to another location for compliance checks. This should make it possible for many firms to administer advisers over a far wider geographical area without significant additional costs.

The basic Bankhall Online service is available free to all users of Bankhall support companies. This includes the client data base, document generator, mail merge, document image storage, contract enq-uiry service, pension shortfall for investment advisers and reports services online commission, agency maintenance and compliance library.

In addition, quotation and new business services are also provided. In the case of IFAs, these are a rebranded version of The Exchange services, for which a small licence fee has to be paid, but for the multi- tie proposition, they are del-ivered via tools built in house by Bankhall.

A monthly charge of £20 plus VAT is made for using up to three licences for the suitability letter generator. The Aequos Online service integrated with the client management facility is also available. The standard charging arrangement for Bankhall members is that the first licence is free and each subsequent licence is charged at £50 plus VAT.


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