Consumer Duty: is your adviser software configured to help you succeed?

Complying with Consumer Duty is creating a huge administrative load for financial advice firms, which many say is having a knock-on impact on time spent advising clients. Here Evotra’s CEO Sally Merritt shows how firms can harness their adviser software to help ease the burden.

Consumer Duty is very much back in the news and on the agenda, particularly following February’s publication by the FCA of good implementation examples together with areas for improvement. It’s given firms a lot more clarity over the FCA’s expectations and at Evotra we’re certainly seeing a surge in activity as clients double down on ‘getting it right’ and prepare for the impending 31 July deadline for closed products and services. 

The administrative burden of reporting obligations

What is apparent from our vantage point is the challenges that financial advice firms are facing in tracking and accessing the information they need to fulfil their reporting obligations and the administrative burden this places on them. Of course, it’s having a knock-on impact on time available for advising clients and on staff morale too.

This is all very much echoed in recent research from Opinium, which was published in FT Adviser back in February1.  According to the research:

  • 72% of IFAs have seen an increase in admin and reporting duties
  • 61% now have less time to advise clients
  • 60% acknowledge difficulties in meeting the FCA’s reporting requirements

Technology is key to meeting the demands of Consumer Duty

The message that we at Evotra want to get across is that there is a lot your adviser software can do to help – not only in meeting the reporting demands of Consumer Duty but in helping you embed it so everyone across your business understands and is living and breathing ‘good customer outcomes’.

From what we can see, most financial advice companies are unaware of – or not taking full advantage of – the capabilities of their technology. To help change this, here are some of the many ways your adviser software can help you, as well as examples of what Evotra is doing to support firms.

Data and monitoring strategies

Once you’ve established the information you need to understand customer outcomes and the issues customers face – and this is an area we can help you with – your software can be set up to capture the relevant data and extract it as the kind of meaningful MI that the FCA is looking for and that you can act on.

We’re aware that many advice firms struggle to get their MI into a format that can be shared with stakeholders and that this can have an impact on a firm’s ability to act on their findings, which of course is key to Consumer Duty. We can help solve this by supporting you in setting up user-friendly dashboards or creating them for you.

Workflows

The workflows incorporated into adviser software can be excellent in helping you set up robust processes, for example by increasing the number of client checkpoints in your journeys, ensuring your processes are consistent and that everyone is following them, and that every step is documented. Workflows and capabilities vary from software to software but we can show you how to get the best from yours.

Automation

Understanding the automation capabilities of your software and taking the time to get set up can pay huge dividends where Consumer Duty is concerned. Advisers are struggling with the increased burden of administration so get your software to share the load, for example by gathering data and running reports, kicking off workflows once a review or other action is logged or producing client-facing documentation such as valuations, costs and charges schedules, or suitability reports.  The FCA has said it is keen to see further automation.

Online portals

Many firms haven’t rolled out online client portals or are using them in limited ways. This is a huge missed opportunity because they’re good news for clients while also resulting in real efficiencies for advisers. They create a simple way for clients to get up-to-the-minute information, enable secure messaging between clients and advisers, increase touchpoints and proactive communication – and a lot more that is highly relevant to Consumer Duty. Supporting firms in rolling out client portals and overcoming the barriers preventing them from adopting this technology is a focus area for us at Evotra.

Vulnerable clients

The FCA is ‘very concerned that firms are not thinking widely enough on vulnerability’ and points out that many firms are either identifying no vulnerable clients at all or automatically classing everyone over a certain age as vulnerable. Your adviser software can be a real ally in helping you identify, monitor and support vulnerable clients. From clear flags to identify vulnerable clients, pop-ups prompting users to add more information to detailed reports and audits, you can ensure you’ve got the necessary safeguards.

In our experience, there’s a lot of activity around identifying and recording vulnerable clients but not much yet on the measures firms are taking to accommodate vulnerability so there is still a lot to do.

People and culture

The FCA has made it clear that where Consumer Duty is concerned, firms that don’t just treat the Duty as a risk and compliance concern or a task for a special project team – but instead are ensuring it is understood and embedded across the organisation – are the ones that are doing best. In our experience, it’s the same when it comes to adopting new technology – the firms that make a success of it are those that develop the right culture and bring everyone with them on the journey. Training and communication are key here.

At Evotra, we’re:

  • Supporting firms in communicating the role and value of technology in achieving good customer outcomes and engaging employees across all levels
  • Training teams – from financial advisers to operations – ensuring they understand the technology the firm is using and its role in meeting the requirements of Consumer Duty

This plays an important part in enabling firms to align their employee objectives, KPIs and incentives with ‘customer outcomes’, which the FCA has cited as an example of good practice.  

How Evotra can help you with Consumer Duty

From helping you identify the data and information you need to comply with Consumer Duty to configuring your software, extracting MI, training your teams and bringing employees on the journey, we can work with you to make a success of Consumer Duty.

For a chat about your firm and specific needs, please give us a call on 020 3410 1966 or email HELLO@EVOTRA.CO.UK