The platforms leading the paperless revolution

The platforms leading the paperless revolution

Embark, True Potential and both Aegon platforms are leading the paperless revolution in terms of client signatures, according to research from NextWealth.

The consultancy collected data from 20 platform providers and found 42 per cent of processes across all platforms required a scanned original to be sent to the platform.

Just over half of the platforms approached required a paper form with a wet signature for some processes while all but one platform required a scanned form with a client signature for at least one of the 85 processes the platform was quizzed on.

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NextWealth’s research pointed to True Potential as the revolution leader as it did not require a signature for any of the processes considered. Instead, advisers were able to complete tasks online.

According to NextWealth, Aegon ARC, Aegon (formerly Cofunds), Ascentric, Fusion, Embark and True Potential allowed advisers to complete at least three quarters of processes online without the need for a signature or through the use of an electronic signature. 

Advisers can complete more than half of the processes online when using Aviva, FundsNetwork and Praemium.

The table shows the percentage of processes for which documents can be submitted with various signatures:

 No signatureElectronic signatureScan signaturePaper signature
Aegon ARC79%0%16%0%
Aegon (Cofunds)80%0%16%0%
AJ Bell45%0%4%35%
Fusion Wealth32%49%15%2%
James Hay0%39%36%15%
Old Mutual Wealth16%0%71%6%

Source: NextWealth, correct as at April 22, 2020. N.B. Where percentages do not add to 100 per cent, it is because some processes do not apply to that platform.

The consultancy urged advisers to “nudge platforms” to adopt signatures or digital processes to replace forms, adding that document submissions rarely formed part of an adviser’s platform due diligence but could impact the ability to work efficiently.

The research also showed most platforms allowed advisers to update charges, set up or change income drawdown, set up regular withdrawals and manage investment portfolios online.

Meanwhile, scanned originals were typically required to set up a power of attorney and to provide a birth certificate, marriage certificate or death certificate.

NextWealth said: “For years, financial advisers have complained that platforms and other providers need too many forms with ‘wet’ signatures. 

“Platforms aspire to help advisers run more modern and efficient businesses, but some practices are dated. We recognise that platforms are not the worst offenders, nonetheless advisers expect more.”

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 some solutions are seen as stopgap measures little better than the processes they replaced.

NextWealth recognised that when faced with the coronavirus crisis, platforms moved “far and fast” to facilitate business in extraordinary circumstances but said more needed to be done to reduce paper and friction in financial services.