Not just about ‘keeping the lights on’
Operating under lockdown conditions during the current crisis has meant going beyond maintaining systems and services, says Anthony Rafferty, Managing Director of Fintech Origo
Origo’s position as the FinTech enabling the automated transfer of pensions, ISAs and GIAs for the industry – the Origo Transfer Service transferred £37.2 billion last year – Unipass Identity, used by 8/10 advisers, as well as other key services, meant that when lockdown was announced on 23 March, closing the doors temporarily wasn’t an option.
As you might expect of a FinTech, we have robust contingency plans in place for this kind of eventuality. Part of which is the ability for our staff to work from home whilst ensuring the systems and processes vital for the services we provide for the industry continue to operate.
Anticipating lockdown, in early March we carried out stringent tests of our business continuity systems, which worked exactly as they were designed to do. Our staff were prepped for the eventuality and also geared up to ensure that from our users’ point of view – and importantly that of their end customers – all our services delivered as normal.
This was especially important in respect of our customer service team as, whilst we let everyone know we would be maintaining our operations and services to the level they would expect of us, in such an unprecedented situation for the country and our industry, we expected a rise in incoming calls in those first days of lockdown as people looked for re-assurance of business continuity.
To emphasise the importance of that continuity, user visits to our services have remained at the same daily levels as those prior to lockdown.
I want to praise the Origo team for rising to the challenge for our customers and maintaining our systems and services under these unusual circumstances. Pre-lockdown I knew we had a great team and that has been proven over the past few weeks.
Helping advice firms stay safe
We have also responded in other ways to the current crisis.
In January, in partnership with cyber security specialist Beyond Encryption, we officially launched Unipass Mailock, a new secure email messaging system for financial advisers, platforms, providers and consumers.
Cybercrime is an increasing threat to our industry and one of the weakest links is email, which when unprotected, can be easily hacked and personal confidential and financial information stolen. When the crisis began to impact the UK, it became clear that cybercriminals were seeing an opportunity to profit from people’s vulnerability, including fears around the fall in portfolio values.
To help financial advisers better secure their information exchange with clients, we provided free access to Unipass Mailock so advisers could feel confident that their communications with clients around portfolio changes and transactions, for example, were genuine. Thousands of advisers took advantage of this offer realising it reduced risk for their firms by providing greater email security.
This period has not just been about ‘keeping the lights on’. We have recruited a number of new companies to our services and, I am delighted to say, the speed of this has not changed during lockdown.
In the past few years the Origo Transfer Service has grown significantly, breaking through 100 users to now having over 130 financial services brands using us for their pension, ISA and GIA transfers.
The Hub does away with the costly and resource heavy point-to-point integrations that were prevalent in the industry by enabling companies to simply connect to the central Hub and integrate to any other user, for a growing range of key functionality, such as bulk valuations, account opening, and bulk transaction history for platforms and providers. Information on the new organisations joining the service will be released to the market shortly.
During this period we have also continued with our policy of publishing on a quarterly basis, the transfer times through the Origo Transfer Service. This is the ceding times for a committed group of companies, responsible for over 80% of the transactions through the Service.
In April, the Origo Transfer Index (OTI) marked its one year anniversary with publication of data for the 12 months to the end of March 2020, which showed that overall average transfer times had improved over the year from point of request to transaction, taking on average 8.8 days to complete, and for simpler transfers, 7 days.
Looking ahead, we have been preparing for when lockdown restrictions are finally lifted and people turn their attention back to their finances and financial advisers are able to once again sit in front of people and address their financial issues face-to-face. We could see an increase in usage as the industry looks to make up for lost time during the lockdown period. We will respond to any industry demands just as we have to the impact of the Coronavirus crisis.
I am extremely proud of what we have achieved for our customers during this period of crisis. It shows the resilience of Origo as the industry’s FinTech and our commitment to delivering even in the most testing of times.