Financial firms start using digital certificates

A fledgling digital certificate service for the life assurance and pensions industry has signed-up its 1,000th customer, and it...

A fledgling digital certificate service for the life assurance and pensions industry has signed-up its 1,000th customer, and it is now being rolled out to all of the UK's financial advisers.

The milestone was a welcome boost for the Unipass digital certificate service, which went live last September. At the end of 2002 it emerged that the multimillion-pound service, developed by industry standards body Origo, had not been used for any commercial transactions since its launch.

However, the service has taken off in recent months, and Unipass is now being used by more than 1,000 individual customers and six financial services providers, including Standard Life, Norwich Union and Friends Provident. A further 13 financial services firms plan to implement the system during 2003.

Research suggests a typical independent financial adviser has to access more than 10 different financial extranets a day - each with its own log-on and passwords. Digital certificates verify the identity of the advisers, removing the need to remember passwords when accessing these systems.

In a bid to increase adoption, Origo is extending the scheme to the UK's 15,000 non-regulated financial advisers. Previously only regulated financial advisers could use the service.

"What we are seeing now is a widespread adoption accelerating quickly," said Paul Pettitt, managing director of Origo Standards. "It saves IFAs time and effort."

Currently, firms use Unipass certificates, developed by Newell & Budge, for relatively basic transactions such as real-time policy valuations. However, Pettitt predicted that firms would start to use the certificates for high-value and high-risk transactions, such as fund switches, if a digital signature application was incorporated into the certificate.

What are Unipass digital certificates?    

  • Origo's Unipass certificates are digital passports for doing business online. They serve to guarantee the identity of each party in a financial transaction 
  • Financial services companies subscribe to the scheme, which is owned by Origo Secure Internet Services. The certificates are free to independent financial advisers, whose participation is critical to the scheme's success  
  • Firms use the certificates to authenticate a variety of online financial transactions. The IFA details stored in the certificate are automatically sent to the back-office system of the financial services company, which checks their details before allowing them access to the policy details of customers 
  • Origo's Unipass digital certificates are registered by internet service provider Thus and are issued by BT.


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