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The Development of Adviser Technology

There are two themes here, one is the increasing contribution technology is making to the adviser market and the other is the dominant way technology will make that contribution.

Sunday, December 1st 2013, 10:36AM

Once upon a time a decent set of manila files was considered pretty well-organised. These themselves were an advance on the policy cards that some advisers kept – or not – on their clients. Of course, if you were a tied agent of a single company, then their data was sufficient for your needs.

Then we developed the idea of client relationship management (CRM) systems. These hold two streams of data, client data: names, addresses, children, interests, contact numbers; and specific information: policies owned, premiums paid, and so on.

Efforts to streamline the latter have humbled even the best, so we are still lumbered with duplicate and conflicting information. But advisers that have worked hard on the former have been rewarded with better marketing and engagement with their clients and tidy, sensible, administration systems.

Shortly after that new tools started to arrive: needs analysis tools, quoting tools, and research. Over the years these have continued to improve and get better and better. Of course advisers have different ways of using these tools, and as with CRMs the differences centre on whether the adviser deals with several companies or not.

Throughout this development our market has tended to be based on single adviser businesses or at least businesses in which there were few advisers. Two would have been the most common. Very few adviser businesses employed more than five, only a handful of national brokerages and some larger regional firms.

But larger businesses need commission management systems. One insurer which tends to deal with larger businesses supplies one. The national brokerages use the systems of their Australian operations. This is a quirk of the New Zealand industry – in Australia the commission management function was one of the first functions to get computerised. There have been attempts in New Zealand but at least two I know of have failed and one exists in only a modest form at one dealer group.

Finally the industry has been adding better communication tools: e-apps have become more common in the last couple of years and the system for collecting medical information has been renovated.

What about how it works?

It is a constant dream that all these services would be provided in a single ‘adviser workbench.’ Perhaps for some: if you need them all, if you like the offer from a single provider, and you are happy with the price and support.

We came closest to an environment like this with the Microsoft suite of applications. But then along came Blackberry, then a resurgent Apple, Google cloud apps, smartphones, Samsung, Chrome books, and you name it, and the world has become complicated again, but also offering many opportunities to find the best combination just for you. 

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