Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the revered science fiction writer and futurist, famously said that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’.
Anyone who has witnessed – and been amazed by – the leaps and bounds made by technology in the past few years, in particular the way mobile internet and smart online systems have become an indispensable part of our every day lives, would be unlikely to disagree with this sentiment.
Nor would we at Hansard International. Technology has revolutionised the way we operate – and continues to do so. When we launched in 1987, we were reliant on paper, pens and postage to conduct a lot of our business, assisted by the telephone and fax machine (remember those?). While – with the exception of fax machines – these things continue to play an important role in serving our customers today, the transformative effect of online systems and mobile technology has been astonishing.
This began for us with the development of Hansard Online, or HOL as it came to be nicknamed, perhaps – depending on your sci-fi tastes – inspired by either HAL, Arthur C. Clarke’s sentient super computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, or the more benign super brain that is Holly, ship computer of Red Dwarf!
Either way, HOL has, without doubt, been the touchstone for Hansard International’s passage into the 21st century, helping us to steer a course marked by numerous technological innovations, many of which have been recognised through industry awards and accolades.
HOL has developed and evolved a great deal since its inception at the turn of the century. Where in the ‘90s our staff could be found sat behind green screens downloading client statements onto floppy disks to send to advisers in the post (registered, of course!), today the brokers themselves can access this information in seconds at the touch of their smart phone screen, via our mobile-friendly HOL platform.
And as HOL’s users will know, we were one of the first in the industry to digitise policy files, meaning whenever policy details were needed, they could be viewed on screen instantly, instead of after a long search through paper hard copies. We were also at the forefront of innovation when we brought advisers ‘intuitive alerts’ to mobile phones. These highlighted significant activity or developments on clients’ accounts, such as fund switches, valuation changes, or notifications of maturing policies, helping advisers to stay informed and be proactive in the way they look after their clients. Our Timeline tool actually allows advisers to pre-empt queries by notifying them of client activity, for instance if they have been researching a particular asset class or fund type. Advisers can then act on this information, enabling them to bring their expertise and experience to bear, adding greatly to client experiences and outcomes.
Alongside all this technological wizardry, we are most proud of the speed and efficiency of HOL’s new business applications process. We have concentrated on this area with a laser-like focus, developing a system in which essential application information is captured in one go, where no unnecessary details or documents are required and where there is little scope for mistakes being made in the process. As with any grand claims regarding technology, the proof is in the pudding, and the fact that over 90% of new business submitted to Hansard comes via our Online New Business Platform would suggest that financial advisers are reaping its benefits every day. Our commitment to utilising technology to make life easier for advisers and their clients is relentless, so rest assured that you will be the first to hear about any enhancements as they happen. Watch this space, there is more ‘magic’ to come!