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Friday, February 1, 2002
Getting information

Since the launch of the Internet online portfolio service provided by Astute Financial Services Exchange in early July 2001 a significant number of users have signed up. Comments MD Biddie Biddulph, “Although there was some initial concern about the service, intermediaries now feel that Astute is a very cost effective and efficient alternative compared to the time-consuming use of phone calls, faxes and so on.”

A survey conducted by Astute highlighted its convenience and ease of use. “Users and prospective users have told us that our service, which provides online portfolio information from various long-term assurance companies, was desperately needed and long overdue.”
The establishment of a centralised business information exchange, now trading as Astute, was set up in April 2000 to provide for moving and integrating financial data and information among various financial services parties. It was back in 1999 that member companies of the Life Offices’ Association had agreed to support the initiative.
Founder members, and initial shareholders, are the Liberty Group, Sanlam and Old Mutual.
“Since then Astute has reached agreements with the other major long-term companies, including Metropolitan, Momentum, and Sage.” He says that once the system is fully bedded down other financial services companies will be invited to join the scheme.
Astute aims to provide a ‘single point of entry’ service to intermediaries. Through a structured partnership arrangement with Dimension Data, the technology has been created to cater for every kind of financial information transaction.

Benefits for intermediaries

Intermediaries who offer financial, retirement and estate planning to their clients are able to acquire policy information automatically in electronic format from participating life offices. The process is quick and convenient and helps intermediaries give their clients fast, professional and quality advice. Those who stay with the old laborious ways will continue to waste a great deal of time.
Mr Biddulph explains that access to the service, initially only through Astute’s Internet website, has been extended to interface directly with financial needs analysis systems. .
Included in the system are the BluePrint programme from Liberty Group, Old Mutual’s PathFinder, Sanlam’s S.Net, and the PlanTech ProPlanner System implemented by ABSA Brokers and Momentum,  as well as Spotlight, the I-Trac system and Analysis Software of  Tradewind and Navigator. “This development will enable the intermediary to download client portfolio information directly into a preferred financial needs analysis programme.”

Main features of the system

• There are three views of information with varying degrees of detail for web users.
• Web users have a download capability to cater for proprietary systems.
• Up-front client authorisation by means of a broker’s note is a requirement. Audits of the authorisation will take place and transaction tracking is available.
• There is an accepted industry standard for all the information.
• Security is provided for the data, the systems and for the users.
• The system allows for flexible billing.
• It also allows for flexible user manage¬ment.
• The system provides valuable manage¬ment information and reporting.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:15.1 1st February, 2002
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