What I’m seeing in the market right now – Origo CEO

14 May 2024

Anthony Rafferty talks digital and why the penny has dropped with providers around ease of doing business with their front and back office operations
As CEO of Origo I spend a lot of my time looking for ways that as a highly connected business, with a 35-year pedigree, we can help make our industry more efficient and effective in the way it does business and help the end customer achieve the best outcomes.

This means I spend a lot of my time meeting other heads of companies to talk about the industry, operational efficiency and cost savings, as well as forward planning. I’m extremely grateful for this time they spend with me and for their openness about what’s on their agenda.

Here are four points of interest that I’m seeing at the moment:

1. The (un)intended consequence of AI

ChatGPT has been an incredible marketing tool for AI. Machine learning and artificial intelligence has been used all around us for some time but giving ordinary people access to the technology has taken expectations of what can be done and how quickly, to new levels. For businesses, systems like Microsoft’s co-pilot are doing the same.

How AI plays out over the next few years is for another article, but the impact on consumer and business expectations is already profound. We are very firmly in the digital age and businesses need to recognise and act on this – now.

We’ve been saying for some while that manual systems – especially those still using paper and postage in their operation – are no longer fit for purpose. Everything, and especially the processes directly affecting the end consumer, has to be digital.

Our industry has issues with legacy processes that simply weren’t designed in or for the digital age. Making processes digital wherever we can, will help bring our industry forward. It will make a huge difference to both the industry’s operational efficiencies and costs, and the service and outcomes that can be delivered to the end consumer.

2. Doing business must be made easier

Providers need to make themselves easy to do business with, in all aspects – or they will lose business. This is well recognised by the industry leaders I talk to.

In any business the focus and spend will invariably be at the front end. That makes sense as it’s where money is made. But this can leave the back office and admin functions in something akin to the dark ages.

We pinpointed this in the letter of authority process. Although an incredibly important process, giving financial advisers authority with the provider to act on the client’s behalf, it is often a manual and hugely paper and post based.

We built a robust, digital solution for the market which can save providers significant costs, as well as helping to provide a vastly improved service to advice firms and their clients.

Technology is now showing that it is commercially viable for businesses to digitise all aspects of their business, front and back office. And as more businesses make that change, it will move from desirable, to business critical.

Those businesses still surviving on paper, or highly manual processing and ignoring the switch to digital, will start to see poor service hit their bottom line. Customers will vote with their feet.

So, I think the next 18 months will be a pivotal point where the leading companies in our industry focus far more of their efforts and outlay on ensuring that their processes, and so the service they provide to advisers and consumers, have that predominant focus of business ease firmly in sight.

3. Connection to everything is everything

Integration between systems for swift and accurate passing of information, and database and form population, should now be the norm for all businesses – it’s as simple as that. But we all know there is huge amount of re-keying of information that takes place within our industry.

As the industry becomes ever more digitised, so the need for fast and reliable connection and integration increases. The speed and quality of a process is dictated by its lowest common denominator – in many cases paper or systems that don’t talk to one another, so requiring (slow and inefficient) manual intervention.

In the financial advice space, we see largely two ways of working. First, is firms who want to use an all-in-one CRM/back office system with the relevant connections to undertake for example, account opening with providers, and bring in the valuation and remuneration data they need. The other is firms who want to use individual, best of breed kit and have them connect to one another, and also have the data they need from providers and platforms to run their business.

For both, integration of systems so they talk to one another is essential. The impact on advice businesses from re-keying of data in terms of time, cost and risk, can be huge and needs to be significantly reduced.

Connecting the industry in a way that democratises businesses’ processes will drive us towards greater efficiency and enable innovation.

4. The penny has dropped
Across the industry I’m seeing a thirst for change. In part this is being driven by the rapid changes in customer experience, and consequent demand for financial services companies to deliver at the levels seen in other industries.

But also, the penny has dropped within the industry that they cannot count on shiny new front-end operations to win them business. If poor levels of service are being seen in other areas of their operations, this will affect whether business comes their way. This will be particularly so, when what differentiates one business from another isn’t the bells and whistles of its products, but the experience of doing business with them as a whole. Why give a platform or provider a client’s money if it is then difficult to move that money? How does that square against the FCA’s Consumer Duty rules on causing harm and achieving the best outcome for the client?

Conclusion
There is an underlying theme with all of these points, that there are huge advantages to be gained in terms of brand and business reputation – and potential sales – for the businesses that recognise legacy ways of working simply aren’t going to cut it anymore, and will start to lose them business.

It is also the awareness among business leaders that from now on, the winners in our industry will be those who use technology well, to blend operational efficiency with a clear focus on the end customer’s needs and outcomes.

Main image: kevin-grieve-huRsLcpxBg4-unsplash

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