RegulationAug 2 2017

Firing Line: Paul Pettitt

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Firing Line: Paul Pettitt
ByMelanie Tringham

Developing technical standards for the financial services industry is like "herding cats", according to Origo's retiring managing director, Paul Pettitt.

The provider-owned organisation, which has just spun out a new governance body, Criterion, brings interested parties together to sit in a room and thrash out common ways of "moving data around" – and they have to leave their competitive instincts at the door.

Mr Pettitt said: "We make sure at every meeting we put an agenda on the screen. The first thing in there that goes up is the Companies Act rules. If you break them then you will be asked to leave the meeting."

The rules are actually very strict. There must be no talk of pricing, or strategy or future plans; all specifics about business plans must be kept generic and there are not allowed to be any side meetings. If one person brings up some commercially sensitive information in the room, everyone else who hears it is implicated in the misdeed, so Mr Pettitt and his team have to keep a close hold on what goes on.

He said: "With organisations who might be a bit more aggressive in what they're trying to achieve, we have to stop them."

Mr Pettitt has been with Origo for 28 years and during his time he has seen the development of straight through processing and the launch of a prototype of the pensions dashboard.

Over that time, the 60-strong organisation has not changed much. Mr Pettitt said the driving force was to: "Help the industry move data around to manage the risks of that and make the process more efficient, and the culmination of that should be better customer outcomes."

An early example of Origo working for the industry was the development of technology that allowed advisers to reconcile commissions that need to be received from providers. The problem was that advisers were dealing with 30 or 40 providers, all with their own systems and own way of doing things.

Origo helped set up a standardised commission-based system for providers to talk directly with advisers, to reconcile payments. He said: "We quickly developed some standards so a number of parties could deliver the same service. There is a set of regulations that require providers to deliver secure information to the customer. We looked at the regulations, and what process needs to happen." 

It was established what data needed to be sent backwards and forwards. Mr Pettitt said: "All of that is defining a straight through processing so that computers can do that without anyone having to interpret it."