Online system helps SA financial brokers comply

Von Nicolas Callegari

According to Astute Financial Services Exchange (FSE), South African financial services brokers and intermediaries have been able to improve their efficiencies in recent years by gathering relevant information online.

?In the past,? says Astute technical executive, Angelo Hatzikyriacous, ?brokers had to preoccupy themselves with manual information gathering, faxing and disparate online systems, which added to the time and cost required to do a financial needs analysis for a potential new client.?

Although it was inevitable, Astute, with its major shareholders being Old Mutual, Liberty Life and Sanlam, has moved this process online over the last four years, to service more than 65 percent of the country?s brokers and intermediaries with close to 17,000 users.

?The result,? says Hatzikyriacous, ?is much improved efficiencies within broker networks, allowing them to draw policy and investment information from the ten financial institutions connected to our system within hours.?

This, he says, was a process that would take up to two weeks to complete in the past.

In line with legislation governing the financial services industry, particularly the Financial advisory and intermediary services (FAIS) Act of 2002, brokers are expected to review their clients? needs analysis a prescribed number of times annually, as well as maintain an accurate audit trail, and be in possession of a broker?s note (authorization letter), allowing access to client information.

Hatzikyriacous says that all these processes have been streamlined dramatically, by moving the information acquisition process online, giving brokers more time to devote to finding new clients, and maintaining existing relationships.

Astute?s system, based on Microsoft?s .NET framework, is currently hosted at Internet Solutions? Application Gateway, and acts as an information broker between financial institutions and their intermediaries.

?The model is based on a similar system used in the U.S., and we are currently running a project to port the system to other areas of the financial services industry, such as unit trusts and managed funds,? he concludes.