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Bitesize InsurTech: Origo

Origo is a software and services provider owned by insurance and protection providers.

While a 30-year-old company isn’t typical for our Bitesize profiles, Origo’s position at the centre of the changing ecosystem of the life, pensions and investment industry justifies a look. Drivers of this change are internal cost and capital pressures, regulatory initiatives requiring greater transparency and customer choice (e.g. Pensions Freedom and the upcoming Pensions Dashboard) and digital customer expectations.

The company, based in Edinburgh, is owned by 14 of the UK’s largest life and protection insurers including Aviva, L&G, Prudential and Scottish Widows but as MD Anthony Rafferty explains, “we are not an industry body but a fintech services company which earns revenue from charging a licence fee for our services.”

Origo’s remit is to improve the operational efficiency and cost effectiveness of the UK’s financial services industry. They do this in two ways: 1) setting industry standards (e.g. creating standard definitions and formats – the company’s origins) and 2) building ‘connectivity’ and market infrastructure services for insurers.

Standards provide common operating, data and communication protocols used by advisers, software suppliers, platforms providers and others, reducing the complexity and cost of integrating across the ecosystem.

Origo’s services include:

  • Integration Hub, which is designed to enable platforms, adviser back-office and digital tool software providers to integrate with one another. By connecting to the Integration Hub, companies need to build only one rather than multiple point-to-point connections.
  • Origo Transfer Service, launched ten years ago, to automate the pensions and ISA transfer process and make it smoother, faster and safer for all parties involved. To date it has been used to transfer over £170bn of pensions.
  • Origo Transfer Tracking service which enables pension transfer progress from the original platform/provider to a new provider, to be tracked in real time by financial advisers via their platform.
  • Unipass Identity, which is used by 8 in 10 financial advisers and provides one online identity that can be used with many platforms, systems and digital services.
  • Unipass Mailock, a secure email service used by financial advisers to encrypt emails to comply with new GDPR rules.
  • Agency Services (a free to use service for advisers) enables agency agreements (terms of business) between providers and advisers to be set-up and administered centrally, securely, quickly and online.

Looking ahead, Origo has six live development projects in the pipeline, one of which includes the architecture for the pensions finder service which is part of the UK government-supported pensions dashboard. The goal of the Pensions Dashboard is to allow individuals to find and view their pension pots across all providers including defined benefit schemes, defined contributions schemes and any applicable state pension. Origo has taken a leading role in the project from the beginning and has demonstrated how its technology could meet the government’s policy intent and objectives.

Rafferty concludes: “We’re here to improve the financial services industry’s operating efficiencies, lower costs for market participants and improve outcomes for consumers. It is through industry collaboration and the backing of our shareholders and partners that our services are developed and maintained, enabling financial services organisations to meet the challenges faced today and in the future.”

THE OXBOW PARTNERS VIEW

With the increasing requirement to improve transparency and customer choice, improving industry connectivity whist also reducing the unnecessary network costs will be an important goal for the industry. While it could be painful for those that don’t embrace the change, it could also be a significant opportunity for those that are able to capitalise on the opportunity.

We have seen similar developments in other parts of financial services, most markedly in banking and capital markets but also in P&C insurance. In banking we have seen the establishment of the SWIFT network to enable the secure exchange of financial information and CLS to improve FX settlement. More recently, PSD2 / Open Banking has mandated a change in the way customers in UK and Europe can access their banking data. In non-life, Polaris is creating data standards in the UK domestic P&C market whilst ACORD has done the same in the US and for global commercial business. The list goes on. While it is admittedly too early to fully understand the impact Open Banking will have, these other improvements in standards and market infrastructure have ultimately all increased the efficiency of the relevant sectors and improved end customer outcomes.

The announcement this month that the UK government has given the green light to a compulsory pensions dashboard (pending legislation to be brought later this year) signalled a continuation of the trend of increased transparency and customer choice. With a lot to lose in a more open market for firms that are not prepared, many firms will need to play catch up to meet the legislative and customer requirements. With Origo’s position in this market, they could be very helpful in addressing these requirements (both with the existing service portfolio and the developments with the new pension finder service).

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Christopher Hess

Christopher advises insurers on market and competitor intelligence and major transformation efforts. He was formerly Business Development Director at LBG Insurance / Scottish Widows and was responsible for strategy, innovation and major transformation programmes. Prior to joining LBG he enjoyed a successful career in consulting serving insurance companies and asset managers with a focus on strategic and transaction driven transformation. Christopher graduated from Queen’s University, Canada, is a Chartered Accountant (CA, CPA), and CFA Charterholder. You can reach him at chess@oxbowpartners.com.

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