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Embark, Novia and James Hay labelled ‘digital process laggards’

Embark, Novia and James Hay labelled ‘digital process laggards’
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Advised investment platforms Advance by Embark, Novia, and James Hay have all been labelled “digital process laggards” due to their continued reliance on paper or scanned forms.

In a report published today (June 22), consultancy NextWealth said all three platforms still require a signed form - paper or scanned - for more than 40 per cent of processes it surveyed over the year to June 2022.

“We consider these firms digital process laggards,” it said. 

Of the 23 platforms surveyed, 10 still required a paper form with a wet signature for one of their processes. Across the entire industry, around a fifth (19 per cent) of the 85 processes platforms perform require a paper form.

The report also surveyed advisers, which found all those working in firms of 10 or more advisers were using e-signatures in June, while the majority of sole traders (70 per cent) are not using e-signatures yet.

A spokesperson for James Hay told FTAdviser: “We do acknowledge that our processes require more paper signatures than we or advisers would like, so we’re using our group’s scale to invest in delivering a digital-first platform that will replace our legacy tech and enable advisers to be much more efficient.”

The business is currently readying for the launch of its new FNZ platform, where adviser users of James Hay will be migrated to over 2023.

Novia’s chief commercial officer, Barry Neilson, also said it was investing in this area of its business.

“We know from feedback from our users that our signature process could be more efficient and, as part of the substantial investment we are making to enhance our technology, is an area we are actively addressing,” he said.

Meanwhile, an Embark spokesperson told FTAdviser it is upgrading Advance by Embark to the Embark Platform technology so all of its adviser users can benefit from the same technology. 

“Over 80 per cent of Embark Platform processes are fully digital providing straight-forward user experiences,” they said.

NextWealth’s report also looked at ‘digital process champions’ - those requiring a paper form (posted or scanned) signed by a client for fewer than 10 per cent of their processes.

These include AJ Bell Investcentre, Fidelity Adviser Solutions, Fusion, Abrdn Wrap, Quilter, True Potential Investment Platform, and Transact. 

New to this list are Abrdn Wrap and Quilter. The latter platform recorded the largest improvement in digitalisation of its processes over the past year at 23 per cent. 

But Quilter’s progress still reflected an overall slowdown in the momentum behind digitalisation when compared to last year’s jump of more than 50 per cent in three firms.

“It underlines that the big improvements in digital processes were made in 2020/2021,” NextWealth said.

The number of paper forms across the 20 platforms surveyed since 2020 has nearly halved, falling 45 per cent from 657 to 364.

Raymond James was also featured in the report, but the platform has since re-sent more up-to-date data to NextWealth.

It told FTAdviser it went live with DocuSign in September 2021 which allows for all account types to be opened using an e-signature and that as of May 1, 2022, 100 per cent of its account maintenance processes can be accomplished in a paperless way.