Despite the challenges of the coronavirus crisis, the way advisers can service their clients remotely has steadily improved with new initiatives from platform providers such as our e-signatures solution for Standard Life Wrap and Elevate.
The start of a new year is always a time for making resolutions for a better 12 months ahead.
And as we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic with the further lockdown restrictions announced at the start of 2021, hope remains that we can overcome the crisis this year with the help of the new vaccines.
Over the past nine months, industry commentators have widely reported on the challenges the pandemic has brought to adviser firms and clients but how, as we highlighted in the early part of the crisis, uncertain times can underline the value of advice, helping to reassure clients.
For all its difficulties, the pandemic has also underlined how technology has the power to create more efficiencies within businesses and connect people regardless of where they’re based.
For adviser firms, the pandemic has accelerated a major digital shift. Remote working has proven to be an efficient and cost-effective way of providing advice to clients, with online video calls replacing face-to-face meetings. Being able to deliver a consistently smooth service for clients during a crisis is vital as part of the reassurance they’re looking for.
As a platform provider, we’re continually looking at how we can redesign processes to support advisers and make our platforms the easiest to do business with.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated some of that work and in particular, the acceptance of scanned documents and electronic signatures (e-signatures) on Standard Life Wrap and Elevate.
Our industry has always relied heavily on the use of wet signatures. However, just after the first lockdown was implemented across the UK, the FCA issued guidance which stated that its rules did not explicitly require wet signatures on agreements.
In order that adviser firms could continue business as usual, we fast-tracked our ability to accept scanned copies of wet signatures on the majority of our documents. Instead of having to sign new business or client instruction forms in person, the adviser or client could sign the document in ink, then scan or take a photo of the document before uploading to the platform.
As the coronavirus crisis continued, it became clear that we needed to consider a longer-term solution to future-proof the use of e-signatures on both Wrap and Elevate.
As a result, we're now facilitating the use of approved e-signature providers on our platforms. These providers have the capability to capture the signature of the adviser or client on all our frequently used documents, converting the signature into digital data. The document can then be uploaded to the platform where we can receive it. As some documents, such as trust deeds or powers of attorney, need to be witnessed for legal reasons, they will still require a traditional wet signature.
As we’re the facilitators only, the adviser firm has to sign up to one of our approved e-signature providers which are:
As security is a key consideration and to help firms minimise the potential risk of fraud, we only accept e-signatures from providers which operate within the Electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Services (eIDAS) regulation and comply with the 'Electronic Communications Act 2000'.
Our new e-signatures solution is a quick and simple way to deliver clear benefits to both advisers and their clients, not least because of the efficiencies it brings and the huge reduction in time, postage costs and paperwork for firms.
As we know now that the impact of the coronavirus crisis will be with us over the long term, our e-signatures initiative will continue to support advisers with working from home, and the restrictions on face-to-face meetings, making it easier to work with clients remotely.
Perhaps most importantly, being able to accept e-signatures means an enhanced experience for clients.
As well as e-signatures, we're continuing to accept wet, scanned or photographic copies of signed documents. This flexibility gives adviser firms options about how they deal with each of their clients to support individual needs, from vulnerable or older clients to those who are more tech savvy.
The start of a new year during a crisis is not only a time for making resolutions, it’s a time tor seeking out innovation and opportunities that the crisis throws up and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception.
In this current, challenging environment, we know that as a platform provider, if we can adopt a flexible approach providing innovative solutions, we can support those adviser firms which continue to evolve their business models, seeking out opportunities to meet the needs of their clients for good outcomes.
The value of investments can go down as well as up, and could be worth less than originally invested.
The views expressed in this blog should not be regarded as financial advice.