Advisers’ ability to service their clients remotely is improving, research has shown, as the number of platforms providing e-signature functions has nearly doubled since April.
Data from NextWealth shows that 16 platforms now accept e-signatures — up from nine at the start of the coronavirus crisis — as platforms rush to provide a virtual service to advice firms.
AJ Bell Investcentre, Fidelity FundsNetwork, Standard Life Wrap and True Potential led the charge for digitally enabling 90 per cent of their document submission process, with NextWealth branding the four platforms “digital process champions”.
NextWealth collected data from 20 platform providers and found that half of the platforms did not require any form of paper signature, while no platform required a wet signature — either scanned or by post — for more than 45 per cent of the transactions offered.
Heather Hopkins, MD of NextWealth, said: “Crisis breeds innovation and the Covid-19 pandemic is no exception.
“Platforms have made huge progress in making life easier for financial advisers and their clients, allowing firms to conduct business online.”
|The percentage of processes for which documents can be submitted with various signatures:|
|No signature||Electronic signature||Scan signature||Paper signature|
|Advance by Embark||47%||0%||41%||11%|
The burgeoning coronavirus crisis sent the UK into lockdown on March 23, effectively ending face-to-face meetings between advisers and clients for the foreseeable future.
This presented an issue for an industry that still relied heavily on the use of wet signatures.
Platforms have moved relatively quickly to update these requirements, but advisers told FTAdviser as recently as October that platform signatures remained a sticking point in some of their work processes.
Ms Hopkins added: “Ease of doing business – and that includes the requirements for various documents to be submitted – is playing an increasingly important role in an adviser’s platform due diligence.
“Enabling delivery of a consistently smooth and efficient service for their clients is a significant decision factor as fees come under increasing pressure, and time spent chasing paperwork is becoming unaffordable."
Since April, Ageon, AJ Bell, Nucleus, Old Mutual Wealth, Parmenion, Standard Life and Transact have all adopted e-signatures to some extent.
Daniel Harrison, chief executive of True Potential, one of the platforms leading the paperless revolution from the get go, said although people would not look back “too fondly” on 2020, he was pleased with the way the platform responded to the challenge.
He said True Potential had always been striving to avoid paper-based systems and therefore, the move to home-working in lockdown was “no problem”.
Bill Mackay, marketing director at AJ Bell, said: “We are always looking at how we can improve our platform and processes to make it easier for advisers and their clients to use AJ Bell Investcentre.
“The Covid crisis accelerated some of that work, particularly around the acceptance of scanned forms and digital signatures.”
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