From pensions and protection to investments, companies across the financial services spectrum are innovating to improve the adviser and client experience.
Breaking free from a traditional hierarchical structure was a step into the unknown for Lloyds Banking Group, but it is something David Holton, corporate pensions director at its Scottish Widows subsidiary, felt passionately about when he formed its innovation lab two years ago.
“There’s no hierarchy here,” said Mr Holton, gesturing towards the entire floor of open-plan office space in the basement of its Finance House premises in Edinburgh where developers, customer services staff and those involved in operations, risk, finance, communications and IT sit side by side.
He said: “If you truly want to put customers at the heart of it, you have to do things a bit differently. I wanted the entire ecosystem for our corporate pensions business to be in one place.
“When I saw this space I knew it was perfect. There was nobody here – no desks or anything on the walls. It enabled us to start with a blank canvas and design the hub specifically for our purposes.”
Mr Holton took 60 people from all over the group – many of them outside pensions – and set about a six-week process to design the corporate pensions business from scratch.
The team mapped every single touch point and how the customer – whether company or financial intermediary – felt at each interaction, then undertook the same process for the employee. The analysis remains on the wall as a reminder of the lab’s foundation.
The end result was an entirely new corporate pensions interface designed for and alongside customers that officially went live in October 2016 following beta and pilot phases. Today, more than 40 per cent of Scottish Widows’ corporate pensions book is on the new platform.
Power of automation
Much of the business is automated. While at one stage companies had to submit raw data for monthly pension contributions to be processed manually, automation has reduced processing times from 22 days to a single one.
Automation is revolutionising the investment industry too. Of the top 20 adviser platforms, 17 boasted automated transfers and re-registrations in 2016, compared to 15 a year earlier, an analysis by Altus Business Systems shows.
Among fund providers, 96 had an automated process for transfers and re-registrations, equivalent to 87.5 per cent of UK funds under management, compared to 67 or 73 per cent in 2015.
Of those counterparties supporting electronic transfers, 56 per cent of transfers were last year completed within one day, up from less than a third in 2015.
For Howard Finnegan, sales and marketing director at Altus, the picture is constantly improving.
He said: “We’ve just starting to work through data for the first six months of this year, but it looks like there’s been a jump in the number of counterparties supporting the open standards for electronic transfers and transfer times continue to fall."