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Document submission requirements: a Covid-enforced wake-up call

The fact that almost everybody is now either aware of Zoom or has taken part in a call using its technology over the past month or so since the arrival of Covid-19 underlines the crucial role of technology in communicating at present. When the verb “to Zoom” has entered the common vernacular, and it’s even used for PMQs, you know that it has become fairly ubiquitous.

The ability to communicate and share information is essential for most industries and none more so than advisers. Re-routing phone lines, conducting client meetings virtually, adopting new technologies to ensure seamless client access – examples abound of how advisers are adapting to the lockdown.

Nowhere has this been thrown into sharper focus than platform document submission requirements. Many advisers are now at the mercy of whether clients and staff have access to the necessary infrastructure at home to undertake processes that require physical copies and wet signatures – without getting into the difficulties of actually collecting post.

The availability of seamless, digital processes is now more important than ever. A recent NextWealth report, collecting data from 20 platform providers on 85 distinct processes for which some form of signature is required, provides a useful picture of where the industry stands currently.

Over half of the platforms require a wet signature for at least one process. For one provider, a paper signature is required for more than half the processes looked at, and three providers only offer signature-free submission for less than 3% of processes. Further, more than half the platforms surveyed require scanned or paper signatures more often than they do not.

According to NextWealth’s data, Embark ranks among the top performing firms in relation to ease of document submission, requiring no signature at all for 62% of processes. This puts us in the top four, and well above the 38% average. The vast majority of the remaining processes require either an electronic signature (15%) or a scanned signature (22%). Only a small number of all our processes, and none of those looked at by NextWealth, require customers to put pen to paper.

The reason is down to our digital-first approach. Our platform remains as easy to engage with now as it was before the pandemic. Built on the latest FNZ technology, the Embark Platform has been designed with a high degree of straight through processing, so that advisers can instruct transfers, set up new accounts and make withdrawals with no need for hard copy documentation. And, we continue to adjust our processes to further limit the need for wet signatures – doing this alongside our financial crime specialists to ensure that, as we minimise the need for them, we do so without placing customers or ourselves at risk.

The result for advisers using our platform is the ability to continue to meet customer needs and maintain high levels of service, being able to concentrate on helping support clients through the uncertainty they may be facing.

Although it’s the Covid-19 crisis that has brought this issue to a head, it’s clearly here to stay for the long-term, beyond any eventual return to ‘normal’. Slick digital processes and the benefits they afford will simply become the standard, as any regression to the comparatively inefficient systems of before would be just that. We’re committed to continuing to look forward and invest in our digital approach, to best support advisers through this journey and those that come next.

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