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Web and flow of business

Anyone who has watched the world equity markets over the last few months

cannot have failed to miss the spectacular collapse of internet stocks.

Many who have suffered have been the so-called B2C (business to consumer)


Suddenly, the analysts who are supposed to know about such things have

decided that B2B (business to business) services are a far more attractive


My personal theory is that their sudden swing towards B2B stocks has far

more to do with the fact that they overcooked their enthusiasm for certain

very flimsy business to consumer propositions and desperately need an

alternative message to expound.

I don&#39t buy into this B2B or B2C argument. My view is that what matters is

having an end-to-end process. Only in this way can you do the maximum to

drive out costs from any business process.

Is not the wholesaler the customer of the manufacturer, while at the same

time the business supplier to the end customer? I make this distinction

because I believe it is essential that IFAs planning their own web presence

should take this into account. Not before time we are seeing competition in

the delivery of electronic services to IFAs.

At the moment I am being asked on a daily basis which of the different

service providers I would recommend. In truth it will only be possible to

reach an accurate conclusion to such questions in a few months time, when

many of the new service providers should have fully populated services

covering a full range of products from all insurers.

For the time being, the answer is probably to spend some time evaluating

each and indeed possibly request the same quotation comparisons over

multiple service and see which give you the most accurate and reliable


In choosing a service provider, however, my view is that it the primary

consideration should be the quality of service they can provide for your

own web service to your clients. This will be increasingly important for

advisers to communicate with their clients in the future.

While it may be contrary to the views of so many of the analysts, I

believe that the battle for the business to business presence in the IFA

market will, in fact, be decided by whoever wins the battle to deliver IFAs

the best business to consumer solution.

One of the main reasons for this is that the last thing you want is a

situation where your client is looking at different documentation to what

you are reading yourself.

While there may be situations where there will be some information an

adviser might not want to display to the client for fear of clouding

issues, there will be clear benefits in ensuring that whatever they can see

on their own web browser is the same as the information on the screen in

the adviser&#39s office. Operating with a mix of service providers is hardly

going to help this.

Until now, while much has been promised over the last year or so, I have

to say that with one or two exceptions I am generally unimpressed by any of

the offers in such areas. Having said that though, in recent weeks I have

seen development versions of new services to be launched in the autumn

which will give IFAs the opportunity to buy into quality web services at

relatively modest cost. My organisation is carrying out extensive research

into the merits of these different options.

Technology must be made to service the business process and create

efficiencies, clearly IFAs do not want to be changing their technology

partners every six months.

On this basis, I believe advisers should be examining the options

available to them in creating their own customer service facilities over

the internet over the next six months. They should then look to put in

place a partnership for the delivery of services that can meet their needs

in communicating with both product providers and clients.

These should be left in place for a couple of years so they can focus on

their main business – giving independent financial advice.


Mike Fuller

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