Whizzing through the countryside on the 07.31 train to Waterloo last week, I was struck by a thought. Even though I was travelling through a handful of counties and changing twice onto different train operators, I only had to buy one ticket.
As fields of sheep zoomed by, I pondered how different my travelling experience would have been had I needed to buy a separate ticket for each leg of my journey.
I have no idea how the various train companies reconcile their costs, but as a consumer of their services, I don’t need to know. My only concern is that the whole experience is as easy as possible, and there’s a seat and a hot cup of tea available onboard.
This is an interesting example of how competing companies in an industry can collaborate for the benefit of their customers. In the financial services industry, providers have a tendency to develop technology solutions in isolation. Whilst this is certainly inevitable, the result is that we all have online services and extranets that we’re terribly proud of, yet intermediaries are faced with the need for a number of different tickets for their journey.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Origo, for example, is a great success story when it comes to providers collaborating voluntarily. Since it was established in 1989, member companies have set data standards for a number of business processes including contract enquiry, quotes and new business, not to mention the development of UNIPASS.
Advisers can now not only experience the extensive benefits of adopting an e-business model, but also get seamlessly from A to B without having to worry about how they got there.
Wraps is an obvious market where providers and suppliers can work together. Legacy data sharing is a key area where providers can bridge a potential wrap pitfall, saving advisers the all-important time and money involved in re-registering clients’ assets.
There’s been much debate in the press recently around the merits of such collaboration. While it’s true to say that any wrap alliances will evolve and develop as the wrap proposition becomes more established, I find it encouraging that two providers are already taking it upon themselves to help shape that direction for the benefit of intermediaries and customers. If only all providers were so enlightened!
Taking calculated business risks and joining forces with the competition might not be everyone’s cup of tea. All I can say is that the cuppa on my seamless, customer-focused train journey last week tasted very good indeed.
Dave Mace is head of ebusiness at Friends Provident.
The views expressed are those of the author and not those of the company he represents.IFAonline
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