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Standard Life sees IT as key to tenfold rise in capacity

Nick Huber
Standard Life has outlined plans to underpin a tenfold increase in its business capacity through a series of IT initiatives.

Nick Huber

The mutual financial services company's ambitious expansion plan, which includes a standard for transferring pension contribution data, was prompted by intense competition in the finance sector and the tight profit margins expected from the forthcoming stakeholder pensions.

Industry analysts said Standard Life's targets were achievable and added that other companies would have to follow the mutual's example or lose business.

Currently a single group administrator at Standard Life can handle about 900 policies compared to 3,000 policies for an individual pensions administrator. Under Standard Life's new plans, the number of policies handled by each administrator would rise to between 5,000 and 10,000 for a range of pensions.

John White, executive chairman of insurance industry consultancy Winchester White, welcomed Standard Life's IT shake-up.

"Its objective is along totally the right lines," he said. "All [life and pension] firms need to improve their productivity by over 100%. But the devil will be in the detail of the implementation."

When government-backed stakeholder pensions come into force in April, pension providers will only be able to charge customers a maximum of 1% of the stakeholder fund's total value - significantly lower than the charges for other financial products.

"If we don't get market share and volume it will be very difficult for us to compete effectively," said Alan Armitage, assistant general manager for information systems at Standard Life.

The technology underpinning the business drive falls into three key areas: allowing customers to view and update their policies over the Web; use of Internet data language XML as a standard to transfer pension information; and the automated distribution of annual customer statements over an extranet.

Standard Life is developing the XML data standard - based on a specification developed by life and pensions standards body Origo - to transfer company pension contributions as an automatic link from payroll systems.

The XML link will save firms time and have an in-built section for company pension leavers and joiners.

How Standard Life will use IT

  • Allows customers to view and update policies over the Web

  • Uses Internet data language XML as a standard to transfer pension information

  • Automated distribution of annual customer statements over an extranet link.


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