Campaign to count a way forward to transform letters of authority

Close up of an unrecognizable businessman signing contract paper.

  • Effort to urge advisers, planners, paraplanners and wealth managers to count letters of authority to build a picture of what they cost the UK financial services industry.
  • #LogYourLoAPain initiative aimed at building cross-industry consensus to create a 21st century online alternative benefitting advisers and clients.

The Pension Lab, a pensions technology specialist, has launched a collaborative initiative – #LogYourLoAPain – urging the financial services industry to estimate the cost of relying on antiquated pen-and-ink letters of authority (LoA).

Together with Criterion, Beyond Encryption and Punter Southall, the fintech boutique is calling on every UK advice and financial planning firm to record the number of letters they deal with to make the case for a 21st century alternative to transform the painful process.

Recent research[1] confirmed that LoAs, essential in granting permission to advisers to work with clients and receive their policy information, are responsible for frustrating and delaying what ought to be a straightforward procedure for the UK’s 28,000 advisers.

At times, it means falling short of the Financial Conduct Authority’s Consumer Duty because the service fails to enable and support customers to pursue their financial objectives.

Today, the Pension Lab is adding its voice to the debate by asking every adviser, consultancy and paraplanner in the coming weeks to log the estimated number of LoAs crossing their desks.

By doing so, the fintech provider can not only supply to the industry an informed view of what it costs each individual firm but also build an evidence-based case of what it ultimately costs us all. It only takes a couple of minutes and one click to get started: www.thepensionlab.co.uk/logloa.

Scott Phillips, CEO and Founder of The Pension Lab says, “The #LogYourLoaPain initiative seeks to build on the great research carried out by The Lang Cat by asking, ‘How many LoAs are advisers dealing with and how much does it cost them?’

“Encouraging everyone to log the volume of their estimated LoA submissions will shed light on the extent of the issue across the UK, enabling substantive prioritisation for its improvement. In return, advisers will receive a bespoke report, detailing what the current process costs them.

“By showing the scale of the LoA volumes, and the cost impact on individual firms and the entire sector, we can make a big step forward to forming a cross-industry coalition to count towards solutions that work.

We welcome more companies and organisations to come forward and support this initiative and collaborate with our foundational supporters including Criterion, Beyond Encryption and Punter Southall.”

Billy Burnside, Managing Director of Criterion says: “The LoA process has been a persistent source of industry frustration for a long time and needs tackling. The #LogYourLoAPain initiative aims to highlight the true cost to advisers and providers of maintaining current practices and enable firms to see the benefits of working collaboratively and identify solutions to improve this lengthy and outdated process. Criterion’s data and technical LoA Standards were developed with many of the key industry stakeholders to facilitate a seamless, automated LoA processes that increase consistency, reduce time, effort, and cost; and – critically – support the delivery of better outcomes for consumers. The Pension Lab initiative will provide a fuller picture of the LoA issues and hopefully drive the industry towards adopting collaborative solutions such as the Criterion Standards.”

Paul Holland, CEO and Founder of Beyond Encryption, says: “Finding practical solutions to everyday problems suffered by intermediaries is critical.  The frustration associated with the LoA process is one such problem that persists. Firms are legally obliged to provide their customers with good and reliable advice, but to do so, they need information regarding existing policies. Waiting for several months to receive client data simply isn’t in sync with Consumer Duty, so any initiative that unites the industry in addressing this is a good thing.

“Letters of Authority (LOAs) are important to allow advisers to fulfil their roles and to deliver a quality service to end customers. Illuminating the scale of the current problem is a great place to start, so we’re pleased to work with Pension Lab on this initiative.”

Punter Southall’s retirement services managing director, Steve Butler, said: “Letters of Authority are like something from the era of Dickens in the digital age. This is increasingly a data-driven industry and by quantifying what we know to be a problem, everyone can be involved in building a better solution through this timely campaign. Let’s blow the dust off this neglected yet vital corner of day-to-day financial advice.”

The initiative consists of three stages. The first calls all advisers, planners and paraplanners to submit their estimated monthly LoA volumes through a quick and simple online form (www.thepensionlab.co.uk/logloa).

They then receive a bespoke report, detailing estimated annual costs incurred by the LoA process.

The second stage aggregates LoA volumes and applies cost modelling. The findings will be shared with key industry organisations to enable everyone to agree priorities for improvement.

The third stage brings together a coalition to foster a competitive yet collaborative approach, including advisers, technology suppliers, providers and administrators to move forward to improved solutions.

For more information about the #LogYourLoAPain initiative and to #LogYourLoAPain, please visit www.thepensionlab.co.uk/logloa

[1] https://thelangcat.co.uk/report/just-fix-it-already-the-broken-letter-of-authority-process-in-uk-wealth-management/