Your IndustryOct 17 2012

Finding the right tools for the job

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Twenty-five years ago I joined the Home Service Company and was introduced to tables and a rates book. At the time I found it very confusing but as time passed it became my companion and I was able to quote premiums and sums assured within seconds.

I sit here today and look at the vast range of research tools available to me, most of which we use every day and on occasion, particularly when the computer system is on a go-slow or indeed has crashed, I yearn for the return of the rate book.

It is a fact that nowadays it is impossible to operate, particularly as an IFA, without research tools, whether it be mortgage research, pension switching or life and pension tools but what I have found is that many of them fall well short of their alleged capacity to simplify and streamline one’s role in this very vital area which underpins the work of an IFA.

First, there are certain elements within research tools that are not covered. Peculiarities of certain contracts, for example, that are not shown, if the adviser was aware of, would potentially have an impact on a recommendation, particularly with certain providers and the ability to buy back critical illness cover after a claim. This is not widely available and certain criteria that lenders require are not apparent on the system.

I see them very much as the first part of identifying an appropriate solution to a client’s needs and that without regular emails and visits from business development managers, account managers and life office representatives, the peculiarities of certain contracts would not be known.

The utopia would be for every single contract, and the characteristics of those contracts, to be able to be researched online in one place.

Mortgage research tools are invariably not up to date and information has been omitted. The lender blames the research tool provider and the research tool provider blames the lender for not providing the up-to-date information in a timely manner, or indeed at all.

The other area that advisers need to consider is service. There is no method through a research tool to compare service standards as these vary dramatically and certain providers are discounted manually because of service standards, or lack of them.