A lot has been made of technology and the impact it can have on our working lives. In today's tough market conditions and decreasing margins, everyone in the financial services industry is trying to find new ways to improve operational efficiency.
Technology itself is not the whole solution, but it cannot be denied that it can drastically improve operational processes and when used to its full potential, can provide seamless links between providers and IFAs.
Making life easier for IFAs
Already advances in technology are having a major impact on the day-to-day working life of IFAs. As we are all aware, the large majority of an IFAs time is spent carrying out research and calling providers to obtain client information such as quotes and valuations. Previously, this would have been a tedious process carried out via telephone and fax, backed up by industry knowledge.
However, today this process can be carried out online. IFAs can research products and obtain key features information at any time of the day. Solutions incorporating Contract Enquiry standards developed by Origo also enable IFAs to obtain real time valuations that include transaction and contribution history directly from providers in electronic format.
UNIPASS has also solved a major headache for IFAs by eradicating the need for multiple passwords to enter provider extranets and portals. UNIPASS is a digital certificate available to every IFA in the industry for free and simply provides them with a unique "key" which replaces their current passwords. It also enables transactions and queries to be digitally authenticated to prove the identity of the IFA concerned.
Behind the scenes
A lot of other work that goes on in the background is often unnoticed and also makes a significant difference to both the working lives of IFAs and providers.
As Origo's sponsors and others have discovered, Origo's widely adopted XML standards play a vital role in ensuring that the industry doesn't become a chaotic mix of disparate IT systems, with support costs rising to unsustainable levels. The implementation of industry standards means that transaction data need only be completed once for use over multiple delivery systems, thereby reducing paperwork, avoiding repetitive input of data and generally saving time and effort for IFAs and providers alike.
For example, with an average of seven million quotes a month being processed by financial portals such as The Exchange, the importance of having XML-based standards in place cannot be underestimated. These Standards also underpin other services including new business, servicing and commission enquiries all developed by Origo.
Making a difference
Feedback received by Origo from IFAs is that the developments in technology are having an immediate positive effect on improving their day-to-day working lives. However now the large majority of IFAs, providers and portals in the industry have fully embraced e-commerce, it must be realised that if the industry is to reap the long-term benefits, such as lowering industry costs and increasing profitability, it will only do so once alternative, less efficient methods of doing business are removed.
Paul Pettitt, managing director of Origo www.origoservices.comIFAonline
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