What clients expect from technology
Innovation is an easy word to bandy around.
Too often providers talk about the ‘need for innovation’ without showing innovation in their services and products.
But as technology improves, those providers who are quick to develop and improve their online services will find they become front-of-mind with many advisers and clients.
Ease-of-use, speedy service, e-Signatures, quicker underwriting processes and more dynamic savings and mortgage platforms have already made a huge difference to many consumers.
This trend is set to continue as users and advisers demand more, and as the Internet of Things becomes smarter, faster and better.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has already acknowledged the importance of financial innovation. In October 2014, it first announced its Project Innovate plans, creating the so-called ‘regulatory sandbox’ enabling providers and advisers to design new products and trial different ways of serving clients.
But despite great acclaim from the FinTech community in the UK, and a swift embrace from smaller providers, in October 2015 the FCA claimed large firms had not got with the programme.
In a statement at the time, the City regulator said: “We have had little engagement with large, incumbent businesses over the last nine months. This is a missed opportunity for them, particularly if they hold back on initiatives because of apprehension or uncertainty about the regulatory environment, as well as for us.
“We will therefore build a programme of proactive engagement with large incumbents, to make sure their potential for consumer-friendly innovation is not being held back by regulatory considerations. In particular, we will seek out opportunities to conduct pilot research on new initiatives.”
FTAdviser is currently canvassing the opinion of advisers across the UK to see which providers in investment, mortgages, pensions and protection have, in their opinion, embraced technology to make life easier for them and for their clients.
This specialist supplement, to support our Online Innovation and Service Awards 2016, aims to highlight those companies who have made the effort to engage with technology, develop better products and show true innovation when it comes to improving their propositions.
Tech takes pole place for investment
Author: Eleanor Ross
We live in a world where you can buy milk online, transfer money to friends in seconds, and put together a wedding gift list using an app.
Therefore, it makes sense that financial advisers and clients are starting to look for more innovative ways to use tech to manage money, get valuations and access portfolios.
Portfolios have moved online, which has improved ease of access and transparency for investors. Rather than getting an annual pensions update, users are used to logging into accounts daily or even hourly, thanks to the progression of services to online.
This has not only brought about greater support for clients, but has also enabled both adviser and client to work together to bolster a strong portfolio and achieve the best results.
So how are advice companies harnessing technology to provide innovative ways to enhance the client/adviser relationship?
Stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown has developed an in-house platform to manage 750,000 accounts, worth £55bn of their total portfolio.
Danny Cox, head of communications and chartered financial planner for the Bristol-based firm, explains that the platform, Vantage, was introduced to make investors’ lives easier.
He says: “We’re helping people to help themselves. Perhaps they don’t want to go through an adviser for everything - instead they can trade, keep an eye on their investments, and be informed about the markets whenever they want. Ultimately, this is all about keeping track.”
Using apps and technology to help implement financial services should not be seen as a replacement to the skills and advice of a professional, but rather as a complement to them. By enabling clients to manage and track their own portfolios, it frees advisers to focus on strategy and bigger issues.
Robo-advice is already believed to be the future of the financial planning world. Using algorithms to create smart and easy-to-implement investment plans, financial advisers can look towards robo-advice as an affordable and useful tool.
Even high-street bank has one eye on developments in robo-advice, as they look to use it as a means to re-enter the lower end of the market.
According to a report from market research firm Aite Group, younger investors who use financial advisers claimed they needed better access to technology to manage their finances, citing it as an ‘unmet financial need’.
TruePotential, a financial services and technology firm based in Newcastle, is pushing the boundaries of using progressive tech to enhance their relationship with clients. The company works with approximately 20 per cent of the UK’s financial advisers and focuses on the role of technology in advice.
ImpulseSave is one of their products, a first-of-its-kind technology that helps to add money to investments in an instant. Clients can add as little as £1 to their investments, enabling them to stay on top of their savings.
Peter Bould, head of media and government affairs at True Potential says: “We believe tech can help show you how you’re progressing, which is why we use ImpulseSave to help edge clients towards their goal.
“ImpulseSave will prompt you - if you’re falling behind, it tells you. The message comes through the tech, and then you have the option to discuss with your adviser, who’s only one call or a message away.”
Like ImpulseSave, Hargreaves Lansdown’s platform Vantage has all the information clients need already stored on the platform. “Ninety per cent of people don’t take advice. They make decisions based on the information shared with them in the app. The other 10 per cent use an adviser”, says Mr Cox.
He adds: “We have 783,000 users of Vantage - it works by finding out about their goals,their investments, their objectives, and then you go from there. It has everything - their Sipps, their Isas, everything.”
He adds that the platform has 94.4 per cent client retention, and 93.9 per cent asset retention - better than the industry average.
Michael McLintock, director and independent financial adviser at Adelp Financial Solutions, explains how the use of innovative technology is vital to running his business. For back-office tasks and producing valuations, he uses Intelliflo.
He says: “It’s brilliant, but can take a lot of work to get the most out of it.” For risk assessment and fund research, he uses Defaqto which is “magnificent”, while for advice reports and annual reviews, he uses Paraplanning Online.
When Mr McLintock worked for an IFA system via a bank, he used to give clients papers with a list of funds and values. “Now, our back office system can produce valuation reports which summarise all the client investments as one, showing asset mix and geographical mix, among other things.
“We also break down each individual investment held and have the ability to show huge volumes of information and individual fund unit prices. We can tailor the report to each client’s specific requirements.
“This information means the clients get more meaningful conversations with us. Discussion around risk and the link to asset allocation come to life and this leads to better client understanding of the risk to which they are exposed.”
He is now able to run reports showing which clients have unused Isa allowance across all the providers they may have investments with.
“We ran this report in late January and within a few minutes easily identified a few clients who have funds held in General Investment Accounts or Unit Trust, who hadn’t yet used their full Isa allowance. A quick telephone call to the client to discuss this meant we could bed and breakfast the sa simply and efficiently.”
For smaller firms, using innovative tech to help evolve the adviser/client relationship can prove challenging. For Dean Mullaly, director and founder of Dean Wealth Management, his readiness to enrich his client’s experience had to be abandoned due to cost and red tape.
He explains: “We were trying to develop a simple login button for our website that clients could click on to get an instant view of their investment portfolio.
“The brick walls we came up against were numerous, one of which was the data feeds needed in order to populate what the client would see (the cost of this was in the tens of thousands).
“Then there was the issue that the London Stock Exchange would require us to pay some sort of annual licence in order to display that data as it is ultimately generated one way or another from them, (again tens of thousands).”
Mr Mullaly hopes that in the future, financial information companies such as FinancialExpress might develop a white-labelled offering to IFA firms. “Perhaps these could be automatically populated from the data they already hold on FE analytics”, he adds.
By helping clients to help themselves, by using tech, advisers are in a strong position to focus on key strategies rather than the day-to-day. There’s no doubt that apps and platforms are the future of client and adviser relations.
Sponsored by 7IM
Investing in Apps
As Henry Youngman said “I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need – if I die by 4 o’clock”.
We certainly hope that this is not the case for our clients but based on research we have undertaken future retirees in the UK simply do not know what they need to live the life they desire in retirement.
What we have discovered with our research is what most advisers already know, the biggest factor putting people off investing enough for their retirement is not appreciating just how much they need. We have built a tool to help them with this challenge of getting the message across to clients.
Our newly updated app, 7IMagine, now includes the ability for an investor to input a host of information on assets and liabilities, expected growth rates, annual savings and investments right through to the level of income they would like to receive in retirement.
Advisers’ clients get a picture of what the total value of their assets could look like, based on a set of detailed assumptions.
Then based on the estimation they make of their future liabilities, it calculates what an investor’s retirement income might look like and where there is any shortfall.
We have worked with the well reputed firm Technical Connections to provide the underlying calculation engine alongside the same gaming experts who worked on Donkey Kong and Golden Eye to create an engaging way to do cash flow modelling and inheritance tax planning.
By using gaming features we have brought investing for retirement to life.
This could be one of the best marketing tools an adviser can have – it’s a smart way of demonstrating to clients and prospective clients the challenges they face.
Equally it could be the thing that puts overanxious clients at ease and encourages them to live life to the full without needlessly worrying about running out of cash.
They say a picture paints a thousand words and we hope the picture that a client creates for their own retirement creates a thousand happy words.
Buzzwords for protection and mortgage advisers
Author: Shirin Aguiar
Speed of service and Big Data are buzzwords in insurance and mortgage, with the former being high on the brokers’ list of demands when it comes to providers.
Companies who have jumped on the Big Data bandwagon want to find new ways to exploit the volume and variety of data flooding in.
This includes data collected by a third party to an insurance transaction, geospatial data such as from geographical information systems, and weather data as it becomes more granular.
Data from the increasing amount of available media can also inform underwriters, as can telematics and biosensors in wearable technologies.
Big Data, which could alter the way in which people are underwritten for protection insurance, is used in the general insurance market and its application in protection is widely-debated, alongside concerns about the use of personal data and permissions.
According to life and pensions software company Liss Systems, from a practical perspective the technology exists to improve the customer journey based on the level of data an individual is prepared to share.
Guy Williams, director at Liss Systems, says: “For example, at the outset of an online journey the applicant may be asked if they would agree to the use of data from public records, or that held by other organisations for which the applicant has already given consent to use for marketing purposes, in return for speeding up the purchase and helping set the final price.
“If the answer is ‘no’, then it's a conventional journey, if it’s ‘yes’, then the data can be used to triage the application and with the support of a good technology and underwriting platform, a bespoke journey can be triggered.”
This uses a modelled mortality score based on socio, economic, lifestyle and geographic factors to offset the medically-driven mortality differentials.
This means the client can get cover which is more aligned to their personal needs, similar to making an Amazon purchase, while possibly reducing costs all round, according to Mr Williams.
He adds: “It is encouraging to see a number of buy now propositions emerging and it is difficult to envisage a world where data is not an integral part of underwriting protection products in the future.
“We believe the future has arrived and are working with a number of parties to help make it happen.”
The future has arrived for millennial insurance customers who, according to the World Insurance 2016 report by Capgemini and Efma, are ushering in a new emphasis on technology-based services.
These clients’ expectations are evolving faster than insurers’ ability to address their expectations innovatively.
Nigel Walsh, vice-president and head of UK insurance at Capgemini, explains: “Keeping up and staying ahead is now the hard part, especially in an industry where you engage very little and when you do, it’s often for a negative event, such as making a claim.
“Service for the now generation will get better, easier and more streamlined as a result of new technologies, along with automated processes and improved engagement with the end user.”
According to Liss Systems, a recent change in legislation could significantly help speed up protection service and underwriting times and over the past 12 months it has been working closely with industry bodies, insurers and its global e-signature partner DocuSign to bring paper-free access to medical records authority (AMRA) technology to the UK protection market.
This is after the ABI announced in February that the use of electronic signatures could be used for granting medical consent, an option that until now was not approved by the British Medical Association.
According to the company, the advantages of the use of electronic signatures for a paper-free AMRA (access to medical records authority) process is especially clear when advisers are writing policies for large sums assured and business insurance, as these types of cases are more likely to trigger the need for further medical evidence during an otherwise online-driven process.
Mr Williams says: “When further medical information is required the process grinds to a paper-driven halt, and this can add two to three weeks to the underwriting process.”
With e-signature technology, clients can sign documents immediately on their PC, smartphone or tablet, which are then completed for the insurer by the end of a phone call.
Approximately 20 to 30 per cent of applications require medical records to be accessed during underwriting, and the use of e-signatures will not only save significant time and money, it will minimise drop outs and ensure more people end up with cover.
Mr Williams adds: “It is a key milestone for the protection industry.”
However, according to Ian McKenna, director at Finance and Technology Research Centre, it would be naïve to assume all providers have responded to these changes.
Instead, if mortgage and protection providers want advisers to use their services, they must all be prepared to adopt various changes and make sure their services can be integrated fully.
He explains: “Independent advisers need change delivered across all the insurers they work with. Those who don’t support change will increasingly find themselves only being used when more streamlined services don’t fit.
“Their focus should be on embracing emerging technologies to enable new and more accurate risk assessment rather than constraining the adviser’s ability to offer better processes.”
And, according to Adam Byford, managing director of Synaptic Software Ltd, unless all underwriters can provide a fuller, better process, it will not make it any easier for either consumers going directly or for those using advisers.
He says: “Current initiatives to refine the underwriting process will reduce the administration burden for some, though not the majority, of brokers’ clients. It will not therefore assist the industry in its main goal of ‘growing the pie’.
“This will happen when the majority of consumers can be offered instant cover, based on minimal assessment, preferably with a click on their own phone or tablet.”
Procedural innovation needed
One of the biggest barriers for financial advisers or mortgage brokers is the protection sales process.
Currently, they must get a basic, quick quote, then go directly to an insurer’s website to answer all the underwriting questions before seeing a final premium which they can offer to their customer, according to UnderwriteMe’s head of sales and marketing, Phil Jeynes.
The company’s UnderwriteMe comparison service, in use at LifeSearch and soon to be more widely available, allows advisers to answer all the underwriting questions in one place, then to see the final premium and next steps from a range of insurers, side by side.
The product/s can be bought there and then, without the need to repeat the process on an insurer website.
Mr Jeynes says: “Essentially it’s bringing the protection sales process into the modern age.”
This offers advisers “huge” improvements in speed and clarity for customers, encourages more sales, and also encourages third parties into the protection marketplace, while insurers gain from sales volumes and quality of management information.
Technology is also at the fore for VitalityLife as it improves processes, including its new SmartAdviser app, which identifies clients who could add cover by answering just a few underwriting questions.
The company also rewards policyholders for making healthy lifestyle choices by tracking consumer behaviour through the use of devices including pedometers, heart rate monitors and mobile fitness apps, and awarding points contributing to discounts on premiums, and cash-back.
Justin Taurog, distribution and marketing director at VitalityLife, says we can already see how technology can benefit policyholders with more intuitive, flexible policies and premiums that match their profile.
“Car insurance is one example, where black boxes are used to monitor driving skills because it is much more accurate than asking someone if they have been caught speeding”, he says.
“This is becoming the norm with protection. It is much better to assess members on a regular basis, rather than looking at a snapshot in time and telling consumers that, based on their health today, this is the price they will pay for protection for the next 40 years”, Mr Taurog adds.
In the mortgage underwriting space, adviser software provider IRESS is preparing to integrate its mortgage and protection sourcing capabilities to streamline the research process for intermediaries.
According to Andrew Simon, executive general manager for product at IRESS, the biggest request from customers around technology is around making online systems easier to use and more 'joined up' to improve efficiencies.
He says: “We are constantly developing innovative digital solutions to help advisers better serve their customers. We want to make it easier for advisers to sell mortgage and protection to customers as a joint process.”
The new capability will allow advisers to refer cases within the software, or choose to advise on cases themselves as part of their integrated offering.
It seems for both advisers and providers in the mortgage and insurance industries, keeping up to date with all the updates will prove business critical when serving the end client.
Sponsored by Royal London
Changes that will make a difference
There’s no denying that these days we expect things quickly. The fact is that in a world of smartphones, social media and ‘click and collect’, most of your clients expect to get an instant response and a personalised service.
And there’s no reason their expectations should change just because they’re buying protection.
With this in mind, long, complicated application forms just won’t do. We don’t seem to have the time, or attention span, anymore.
That’s why Royal London is looking at things differently. We’ve updated our online quote and apply service to make it quicker and easier to do business with us.
Our online service works across all electronic devices,so you can use it on go – either with your laptop, tablet or smartphone giving you the flexibility to do business as and when it suits you – handy if you’re out and about with your clients.
The underwriting side of the system has a smart rules engine built in. This means a client will only need to answer those questions that are relevant to them. Plus it’ll give more instant decisions, saving you and your clients’ time.
We’ve also created a ‘send to client’ option. This gives you the choice to complete the application online yourself when you’re with a client, or to start the application and then send sections to them to complete in their own time.
This is particularly useful when it comes to medical information. As we know, clients sometimes don’t have all the relevant information to hand during your meeting or maybe the required information is a bit sensitive.
Our ‘send to client’ option allows them to fill those sections of the application at home, in their own time before returning it to you.
But new technology isn’t the only thing that’ll make a difference to you and your clients. As well as a tailored online service, you need good working relationships that stand the test of time. That’s why our technology is backed by a personal service. Call us old fashioned, but we want to get to know you personally.
That’s why with us you’ll get a dedicated case manager and underwriter to look after all your ongoing cases from start to finish.
You can contact your underwriter directly to check what information to include before you submit an application. And your case manager will give you regular updates by phone or email – whichever suits you best.
Because we don’t believe one size fits all, our customer service team tailor their approach to meet your individual needs.
If you’d like more information, or you’d like to try our new online service visit us at adviser.royallondon.com/protection.
Pension freedoms have made retirement decisions complex
Author: Damian Fantato
When the playwright Karel Capek came up with the word “robot” in the 1920s he derived it from a Czech word meaning “hard work” and “drudgery”.
Since then robots have travelled back and forth through time, explored galaxies far far away and attempted to kill their human masters on a worryingly regular basis.
The latest frontier robots are due to conquer is the world of pensions through “robo-advice”, a vague word which describes any way of automating advice online to make it more accessible to those with smaller savings.
In many respects the term robo-advice is entirely inadequate when describing what these new services offer, since they can neither be especially robotic not do they necessarily offer advice – some only offer guidance.
That has not helped a large number of companies dive into the world of robo-advice headfirst. Bellpenny, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Selectapension are among the major industry players to announce their plans to launch a robo-advice service this year.
One company that has already moved into robo-advice in a big way was LV=, which bought a majority stake in Wealth Wizards and launched its own service in August. This has already been used by 5,000 people so far this year.
Broadly speaking LV= offers fully regulated advice following an online fact find for a cost of £199. David Stevens, head of automated advice strategy at LV=, says: “The Retail Distribution Review led to a reduction in the number of financial advisers, and changes to the way they charge.
“This means there is a lack of affordable, accessible advice for consumers with smaller pension pots.
“At the same time, the pension freedoms have made decisions at retirement even more complex, making it vital people get advice.
“Customer reaction has been very positive. Our recent partnership with B&CE, providers of The People’s Pension, has enabled us to make the tool available to its 2.4m members and we’re confident we will have more partnerships in 2016.”
Goal-setting for retirement
Clearly there’s money to be made for providers looking at making a comeback to the financial advice market after the introduction of pension freedoms.
But if the picture emerging suggests providers are doing most of the innovating that’s far from true – some advice firms have proved to be no slouches.
Among them is True Potential, which already offers a direct to consumer proposition that guides clients by showing them how their options will impact on the goal they have set.
Daniel Harrison, managing partner at True Potential Investments, said: “We believe a hybrid model is the future. Our research shows that 65 per cent of investors would use robo-advice up to £1,000 before opting for a professional adviser. Fewer than 10 per cent would invest more than £5,000 based on robo-advice.
“Advisers must ensure they continue to offer their clients the best technology on the market and should not be afraid of it. It is an opportunity to deepen relationships, add value and enable transactions that are uneconomical to manage with human interaction.”
Human interaction needed
Buying a pension or savings product online might appear more mundane than time travel but it is no less fraught.
Plenty of people are used to buying their books on Amazon but Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society, says care must be taken when using technology to sell people financial products.
He said: “There is a fair argument stating that all financial advisers are in one way or another a ‘robo adviser’, given that the term is making reference to a level of technology incorporated within the advice process to make it more streamlined, effective and cost-efficient, but human interaction and personalisation will remain a key differentiator for some time to come.
“All the major mis-selling scandals have been formulaic in nature and while technology will continue to play an increasingly important role in the future financial services landscape, it should not be seen as the silver bullet simply because it might appear to be cheaper to implement and operate”.
That’s not to say Mr Richards doesn’t think advice cannot be complemented rather than threatened by technology – he does. But he thinks regulatory reform will be needed to bring the rules up to date with the evolving face for advice.
One regulatory issue is the confusion surrounding the definition of advice, with Ben Goss of Distribution Technology recently claiming a number of firms had put their plans on hold over confusion about whether a simple risk profile would constitute a personal recommendation.
The FCA, for its part, has said it is trying to address some of the issues and has confronted a number of them as part of the Financial Advice Market Review (FAMR).
A spokeswoman for the regulator said: “We’ve tried to address some of the barriers that firms have identified to offering new, streamlined advisory products through guidance and with Project Innovate our door is open to firms with new ideas they want to bring to market.
“To this end, we have discussed a number of individual firms’ propositions over the last few years to help them understand the regulatory issues and how these can be addressed.
“We believe that a healthy retail investment market is one in which there are a number of different distribution models to suit a broad range of investors. We want to give firms the confidence to innovate to achieve that.”
But perhaps Mr Richards’ concerns reflect a need to bring robo-advice back to the original meaning of the word. For now, maybe the robots are best used for drudgery and hard work, rather than being relied on for the entire pensions advice process.
Sponsored by Royal London
Royal London – award winning online services and tools
Nine years running. That’s our track record for achieving five stars for online service at the FTAdviser Online and Innovation Service Awards.
Through nearly a decade of radical pension reform and change, Royal London has stood by advisers. From auto enrolment through to the pension freedoms, we’ve developed a number of online tools and services to support your business.
Our consistently clear vision
We like to think we’re regularly recognised for the quality of our online proposition because we focus on what matters; giving you access to tools and services that can make your life easier.
Unlike a lot of other providers out there, we never design solutions to replace your services. Our starting point will always be to ease some of your heavy lifting. To take on the admin that can drain your resource. Or more simply, to let you get on with what you do best – advising your clients.
Our online service will help you follow, review and manage your Royal London clients straight from your desktop.
We’ll give you a bird's-eye view of both your personal and workplace pension clients. And, through our intuitive design, you can keep tabs on everything from their contributions to investments, which can support your regular review conversations.
You can also:
· Create, manage and edit your new business illustrations.
· Use our pre-filled application forms and track your client through each stage of our new business process.
· Update your client details, their contribution levels and investment choices.
· Manage your auto enrolment schemes by adding new entrants, updating payroll data and processing contributions.
Tools for your business
We also have a range of tools you can use with your clients to help you efficiently profile their needs and recommend appropriate solutions. And what’s better, they’re all free to use.
· Our Auto enrolment designer will help you create comprehensive reports detailing the problem your client faces, while modelling potential solutions specifically suited to their needs.
· You can use our At retirement tool to support your conversations with clients around the income they need in retirement and their preference for certainty or flexibility.
· Through our Income planning tool you can create personalised reports for clients looking to use income drawdown.
· Our Risk attitude profiler helps you quickly assess your client’s attitude to risk, before reviewing their investment choices.
· Help your clients work out potential contribution savings by using our Salary exchange calculator and creating individual statements.
Need more information?
To find out more about how our online tools and services can support your business, visit adviser.royallondon.com/pensions