Your Industry  

Tech spotlight: It is you who is imperfect

Tech spotlight: It is you who is imperfect

Hello, hello, hello, welcome back. It all seems a very long time ago, doesn’t it?

2015 is here, you probably noticed. Normally at the start of a new year, I’d do a bit on what we might expect to see, and I will do that, but first let’s do something a bit different.

All the technology in the world, from the clever gimcrackery in your Audi to your mobile phone to your CRM system to your platform has one common weak link: You. You are a big, inefficient, leaky sack of icky stuff. You take all that good, clever technology and break it. You can’t be trusted.

Article continues after advert

As an aside, we recently took delivery of a new Audi in my house. Not in the house – the car is about the same size as my house – but outside it. Within 10 minutes the Whale, as we’ve named it, had let us know in no uncertain terms that we were not using the vehicle in an optimal manner (you have to imagine that in a German accent) and that we should desist immediately, or maybe buy something Japanese.

So to kick off our thinking on tech in 2015, I want to talk a little bit about how you as advisers work with the companies that are providing you with online resources.

In doing this I’m particularly thinking about the new pension products which are being rushed to market to take advantage of Steve Webb’s new reforms. And we won’t talk about the selling your annuity proposal other than to blow raspberries at it.

Having talked to a number of development teams about what they’re up to, I’ve been struck by how fearful many firms are. They won’t admit this out loud of course, but the perception is that if they’re not ready to go with a new product in April then they will have missed the boat, won’t get any business ever again and won’t be allowed to go and have a crafty underage beer under the Dean Bridge with the Edinburgh cool kids any more.

As a result, and naming no names, I am seeing normal development cycles seriously compressed and a level of what we in the trade call ‘bodging’, which does not augur well.

Bright and shiny

If you’re building your new product on shiny platform-based, highly configurable technology then it’s not too bad. You can sketch out a new product shape in an afternoon, put in parameters to test it in a few days, and then it’s a few weeks’ effort to get it built plus all the testing, so a few months. Not hard.

If you’re using older systems, as most lifecos are, then the normal development cycle can be closer to a year for a full launch. Oftentimes launches are broken up into phases so that at least something can go to market, even if it’s half-built. Then, if the company keeps focus, it all clicks into place behind the scenes. If it doesn’t – well, I still recall one product class at a lifeco which will remain nameless, which never built the functionality to remove the AMC on loyalty bonus units on one of its big-selling pension products. ‘We’ll get round to it, it’s not an issue yet…’ is the mating call of harassed proposition developers everywhere.