podcast with anthony rafferty and paul holland
22 min

Setting The Standard For Ubiquitous Connectivity With Anthony Rafferty

Posted by Picture of Paul Holland Paul Holland

For episode 6 of A Sense of Identity, we caught up with CEO of Origo Services, Anthony Rafferty.

You can subscribe to our Sense Of Identity podcast series on your podcasting platform of choice using the links on our Anchor page.

We discussed how digital technology is changing the financial services industry for the better and what Anthony's team is doing to streamline industry processes.

Anthony Rafferty is CEO at Origo Services, our partner on the joint secure email solution Unipass Mailock. As the UK's original fintech company, Origo Services has a goal to connect the financial services industry for the benefit of everyone through its toolkit of software services.


Paul: Firstly, a warm welcome to this, the next in our series of podcasts entitled A Sense of Identity.

Today I am delighted to be joined by Anthony Rafferty, the CEO of Origo Services, so firstly Anthony thanks for becoming our next victi- vict- participant.

Anthony: It's a pleasure. It's a pleasure to be spending time speaking to you, Paul, it's always time well spent so I'm delighted.

Paul: Bless you. And I will give you the money and we'll give you the money as I promised when we next catch up.

I'll- just before we crack in and we sort of talked about some of the subjects I was hoping we could cover.

What I did want to do is, you know we've known each other a long time. People know we've known each other a long time.

You've worked in some big old life co's and then obviously moved into really exciting territory, you know Origo and the FS intact - a fintech business.

But then, well, I was reflecting actually on my connection with Origo which, given the first question I was going to ask you I thought might be a good entree.

So my interactions with Origo go back such a long time and I was thinking back and looking back on my records before we came into this session.

They actually date back to probably not far off when Origo was first set up back in 89 or so in the first message stamp cause I think we were- a former business of mine Webline- we were the first to adopt those standards.

So for me, the ongoing relationship has been an absolute pleasure. You guys are always great.

We have great fun chatting to each other, but there's a much more serious side to all this of course, so I thought what might be a good place to start would be if you could for the audience explain to those that are listening- and as I say, thanks, thanks for doing this- how Origo came about, you know, and also in your eyes, because you've, you know, you've led a lot of change already, how the business has evolved since way back then, but also under your tenure, if I may.

Anthony: Yeah yeah, absolutely. It's amazing how many people I do speak to who teach me about the history of Origo because you're right and it was formed in 1989. That's the same year as the World Wide Web.

So we like to think of ourselves as the original fintech and indeed, well the reason it was set up was it was a group of like four providers, pension companies and insurance companies in the market put some money in and the remit I think was to you know, look for opportunities to make this market more efficient.

What can we do that would be, you know, in a non- sort of competing basis to make the market more efficient.

So some of this stuff the business in its early years was, so well they created the exchange, you know, which is still there today, that was one of the things they did and sold that many, many years ago.

But more famously, than that actually was it created the standards - data standards through which participants in the life pensions and investments markets interacted with each other online.

And that's pretty much what it did for its you know, first decade was those data standards and we would have worked with, you know, Webline, to connect with those.

It no longer does that actually that's now all run by Criterion, which is a separate business that's still owned by Origo's previous shareholders.

But about 20, maybe 22 years ago, Origo got into software as a service and that very quickly became the main kind of essence of what the organisation does.

And so we're best known for our transfer service. So the Origo Transfer Service, used to called 'Origo Options'.

Some people still remember it as that. We rebranded a few years ago, didn't spend anything on the rebranding, so people still call it Options but the Origo Transfer Service is now you know 95% of all defined contribution pensions.

So yeah, I think we do about a million a year, £46 billion worth last year's so that's our biggest service. Another thing that some people don't know about Origo is that we also have another brand called Unipass.

I remember when I got a job, I had a friend, I was living in Yorkshire and had a friend who was a financial adviser and he said "Oh well done on the Origo job, we use you for pension transfers."

And I said, well you probably use us for Unipass as well. And he lit up and he said "that's not Origo is it?". Yeah.

To financial advisers that's the Unipass brand, is better known than Origo. So we're a, you know modern software as a service fintech.

We've got 8 services and we're just about to add a ninth. And the common theme across all our services is that we connect the financial services marketplace for the benefit of everyone so.

Paul: And that was, that was why I was sort of leading in with this, because I think people do have a misconception or understanding of that of the breadth of that toolset, obviously I've been very familiar with Unipass.

And Unipass and Mailock and the integration of those pieces, you know proliferated out in the market and that's fantastic. But that wider toolset that, as you say, connects the financial services community.

Talk me through, if you can, that Unipass piece and the part that plays in those tools because of course for an adviser my understanding was that there was always this, and it still persists today doesn't it, you know trying to create some simplicity around access to tools, websites, you know, utilities within the industry without having to have a plethora of access points so- but I know that Unipass plays a part in the other tools, you can you share a bit more around that side of things?

Anthony: Absolutely. I suppose if you put yourself in the shoes of a financial adviser. It's incredible actually the number of organisations that they need to interact with or gain access to systems of and before Unipass Identity it would have been username and password and you know, and having multiple dozens and dozens and dozens of usernames and passwords. Yeah.

If you put on the shoes of the platforms and the providers, they're having to, again in the olden days, having to manage their own secure login methodology to gain access to portals and back office systems.

So Unipass Identity, we vet the financial adviser to make sure they are who they say they are, the firm that they work for, we give them a certificate which is unique to them, either on their machine or in the cloud or both.

And it gives them secure and frictionless access to, you know, multiple brands across the market. So they just log in seamlessly, that's the whole essence of it, but securely.

We think it's, or we know actually, it's used multiple times a day by 8 out of 10 advisers.

Paul: Yeah and that- actually that ubiquity on login, I mean that's a problem that persists today doesn't it.

You know, I know, you know hopefully people out there are using sort of password store systems and there isn't it, you know, there's this habit in that people have lots of inboxes, you know, lots of portals and you might share a password across more than one which is an absolute no no.

But, I think that also there's a similarity and a theme there because of course Unipass helps solve those problems in terms of the gatekeeper and access those systems. I guess with our initiative with you guys and the Unipass and Mailock piece is about that.

You know, people have a lot of portals, I think 118 statistically. So you could suggest, well, are you going to log on to all those places with 118 inboxes or do we create one secure one which is yours, you know, and so there's a, there's a theme that runs all the way through that.

And is Unipass a piece, a piece of your technology that persists through the other areas- the hub and pension transfer yeah.

Anthony: It does actually, so certainly on Unipass Mailock, it's, you know, a core part of that, you know, it would be well I've no doubt we'll come on to that but you know, it would have been wrong if there was a convoluted process to say, work out if it really was an adviser or not that was receiving or sending an email so a core part that is used in the hub, so to authenticate, you know, it's that the right person.

We actually see Unipass as a brand- Unipass Identity is the product, Unipass Mailock another product, it's, is it used on that, I don't know if it's used on letter of authority process.

Certainly it's Unipass Letter Of Authority but we're just using the brand. The financial adviser will use Unipass Identity to log into that system.

Paul: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That makes a lot of sense.

It's like our customers use it embedded as part of their job. Wouldn't it be great if there was a consumer version of that, my god, you know, and I know everyone's still driving towards that so you know it makes a lot of sense.

I mean in terms of the challenges, you mentioned Letter Of Authority there and I know I attended recently an event, where I think you won an award for that piece of tech innovation and I met Matt Noble who stood up and did a great presentation and justifiably so won an award so congratulations on that.

Where would you say the biggest challenges are for Origo and I know you're doing a lot in the dashboard space and obviously that's been a long time coming and you know thankfully things are moving in the right direction there. So what's the biggest challenge Origo is solving in in the industry today, you know with Mailock and without it, you know, beyond that, what are the areas you're focusing on?

Anthony: It's funny, sometimes we get asked, are we going to take our services abroad, you know, trade internationally?

And it's actually not an agenda because as you know, that is so much of our industry that's still paper-based and physical- based and things going through the post or re-keying that has to be done.

It's incredible actually, and I think we are further behind in our industry from the banks.

I mean, the banks with open banking have sort of got their act together and, you know, their online banking as well. Whereas I think the pensions and investments industry, life industry is sort of catching up.

So- so really our opportunities are around looking for other pain points, you know, broken processes. Yeah.

I mean the Letter Of Authority one, it's just ridiculous.

The- it seems so obvious that you'd want to have a centralised or, you know, solve that problem, you know.

Well, I met a new financial adviser just a couple of years ago, two and a bit years ago and, you know, literally turned up with ten really poorly photocopied bits of paper.

They'd hand wrote the names of my existing pension companies, investment companies and my life insurance policy, sent them through the post- so there was ten stamps to be paid for and it's.

It's- so, a digital solution for that, you know, just makes it quick, secure and you know, and digital and so on.

I mean Unipass Mailock it's, we all know as consumers ourselves the amount of sensitive information that gets sent through normal email. It's just ridiculous.

Or alright, this notion that "oh it's okay I'll put a password on that file" you know through an unsecured email.

There was one company I was dealing with I was asking for a transfer value actually for one of my pensions when I was doing the consolidation of all my pension pots and they said we'll send you your, you know, your documents.

So it's a lot and it was a fraudsters dream, on that document really- big amount of money, reasonably big amount of money in it as well- but I'll put a password on it and the password will be your national insurance number. Yeah.

Well, you know, why don't you just tell the fraudster, the cyber criminal my national insurance number, you know while you go about it.

And not just from a security perspective, you know, that's the reason that we've teamed up for Unipass Mailock, but from a- from an environmental perspective?

Paul: Yeah I know, it's mad isn't it when we've talked about this together and we've seen some of the success stories of some of the adopters that are now moving more into not just the adviser comms, but their end customer and also trying to automate some of those outputs because you quite rightly point out that you know, the ESG sort of agenda aside from economics, you know, given the cycle we're in, you know, saving money is obviously going to be really key addressing security, all those things, but actually trying to help digitise what should be a more digitised industry.

Ironically, you know, it feels strange to even say, you and I from a technical background, you know, everything we do is with that in mind.

But those processes, they still persist. Letter Of Authority like you say, at last something actually happening to solve that bottleneck.

Anthony: But to properly answer your question, I suppose our biggest challenge is. It's almost like, when you think about our services, the like a network, so you got- on one side you've got, sometimes it's the adviser, it might be, for Hub it would be practice management software businesses but on other you've got platforms and providers.

And by the very nature of doing industry wide solutions that network effect you know, the more people that join the better for everybody because you create a network, that can sometimes be slow to begin with.

That's probably our biggest hurdle so we're getting there now with all our services you know. The early ones can be hard yards to- somebody's got to to jump first.

Paul: Yeah yeah yeah that makes sense. So tell me a little bit more about- this whole thing is entitled to a Sense Of Identity, not just because we want to get people up to date with what our guests are doing, but also because we want to meet the people behind it, which I think is really important.

This is still a people industry, even though we're doing things remotely. Tell me about, you know, your background and how you came to join Origo, because I think that, you know, people would like to understand the experience of, you know, in the company and obviously under your new ownership structure, you guys having moved into different circles there.

So yeah it would be good to understand a bit more about that background.

Anthony: Sure I actually feel very blessed actually to be here. It's funny, how life just works out the way it works out and it's- so my background before going into pensions and investments, I was banking.

So the early parts of my career working for the, surprise surprise, the Scottish banks, so Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland, and then back to the Royal Bank of Scotland, which was unusual in those days, very much proposition management and more of a sort of focus on the lending products.

So credit cards, loans and mortgages, a little bit of savings as well, but mostly the sort of lending products.

And I loved that, it was a great- being a proposition manager it was great to get sort of end to end responsibility for the product.

So not just the features and the price but the, you know, the customer service aspects of it, the sales and marketing aspects of it.

It was a great learning ground for me and I really enjoyed that actually. I left Royal Bank of Scotland. I thought, you know, let's do something else with my career and I got an opportunity at a Aviva and I spent, I worked for again, I worked for Aviva twice as well actually I spent five years the first time around initially in lending, so it was equity release looking after that proposition. I've still to actually work in any business that the customer advocacy score was higher than all those customers.

Equity release is a great product. Not right for everybody, but for most people it is right for it's a great option. We did that for I think maybe a couple of years and I got asked to take on a role as sort of leading the pensions investments business, the direct pensions and stuff that was with IFAs at a larger platform.

So the Aviva platform, my team the ones that looked after the kind of backbook, all those billions of pounds of pensions and investments backbook and so on.

And I've never done that before. But again it was brilliant learning for me. I naively thought that the products would speak for themselves. This idea of having a sales team that would go out and sort of recommend that, you know, it was kind of a new thing for me. I'd always been a direct to consumer person, you know, within retail banks.

So it gave great learning, it was a great experience to launch a platform. I think we launched two. Great fun and great learning.

Went to friend's life for a bit. Yeah and I remember our interactions way back then too as well, so yeah, it's been a while.

As I joked with Aviva's Chief Financial Officer. You know, if you wanted me back, you don't need to buy the whole business.

You know, you could have just-

Paul: He was obviously keen.

Anthony: He didn't care actually. So it was probably as a coincidence of leaving Aviva the first time around and then joining Friends Life I think it, you know, had Aviva not bought Friend's Life I probably might not have ended up here at Origo because I might not have even been considered for the role so it was just I met a recruitment consultant, got approached by the previous Chief Exec who was hiring - is it something I want to explore and you know once I did my due diligence on the business and I suppose like many people those you know let's say 5-6 years ago, I only really knew Origo for transfers.

I didn't know- I knew they were making noises about dashboards but didn't know much more.

So when I did my research I thought, well, this is this is the one for me.

And I went on with the process. And it's exciting, you talk about dashboards. I mean, it's exciting and quite flattering that you, you know, you've secured a relationship in part of the engineering that will be dashboard because it's been a long time coming hasn't it, and again, long overdue.

So hopefully the industry will now gain pace and pick up and move all those things along.

What are your thoughts in terms of the future? I mean, obviously, from our perspective, you know, we're continuing to see the Mailock proposition grow. It was great.

We were we were delighted that you chose to partner with us and I'd be interested to understand why that was, apart from obviously the drinking because we share a keen ability to be able to do that.

But what about the future? What, how do you think things are going to evolve over the next five years? Because you know, we've seen a huge amount of change in appetite for digital.

COVID probably has accelerated that. I'm not entirely convinced companies necessarily move at the pace that you'd think they should do because of the impacts and the changes in consumer behaviour because of COVID but how do you think the next five years looks in terms of the evolution of those things?

Yeah, so I think we'll see a lot more digital solutions for things. I think Consumer Duty is actually, whilst it's you know, a big project amongst providers and platforms and stuff, I think it's a really, really positive thing.

And I think it will act as a catalyst for more streamlined digital solutions that, you know, takes away some of the opportunities for error or risks or things taking taking long.

So that should be beneficial for us as a business, you know, who wants to build digital solutions. No I actually think like, as the population maybe like gets older and its the next generation coming through.

I think that generation are just expecting more things to be digital, you know, the thought my eldest what's she like 21, she's grown up with you know Deliveroo, Uber you know in the mix, I remember we first got Deliveroo, we were out for a meal they were just old enough to look after themselves for little but I got this, these three text messages- they had set up Deliveroo and ordered three different meals from three different restaurants. And I'm thinking what the?

Paul: Yeah the world's changed. Is it, I mean is that what you think- I sort of missed slightly there a step but I think it probably is a good segway.

So is that why this is important to adviers and product providers, because the consumers they're dealing with, their expectations are now so much more technically focused.

So, you know, the ability for tech to improve that, you know, is that why you think that there might be a greater impetus?

Anthony: I think so. I think those two things there, they I think as two expectations which are growing among consumers and end customers, which is one is, that you know, if you meet a new financial adviser it's not really reasonable to say "right I'll be back in touch in six weeks once I've got all that paperwork from your existing.."

It's ridiculous. But now there's an- I think there's a growing view that consumers are waking up to the fact that their data is really important and it's their data not the companies that deal with the data.

So it needs to be secured and, you know, it needs to do what they want it to do, and that provides value as well. Yeah, so I think those two themes are really relevant for what both our organisations do.

Paul: Yeah no I agree, I think there's a- I mean, I think your example was brilliant there because, you know, service expectations for me, you know, if something doesn't work quickly, I lose interest really quick.

I'm not a patient consumer and I don't think I'm unusual in that. And the other thing is the expectation of pace in anything.

You know, all of the services, including the ones that we work on together are about- are not just about meeting obligations.

You know, it's not about ticking a regulatory box. It's about, can using this technology be simple?

You know, can you simply use something that helps you do things quicker, more efficient, and in a way your customers just demands so, it feels like, you know, as I say, both organisations are very wedded to that.

I mean we spent a lot of time didn't we together when we were first looking about the integration and how Mailock would work with Unipass and all those things laboring over well, it just has to work out of the box very simply. Yeah. Absolutely.

And the Letter Of Authority one you mentioned before, again it's just, it's just gotta to be easy hasn't it, otherwise it won't be used.

Anthony: Easier, it's gotta to be cheaper than a stamp you know, that's Letter Of Authority. But yeah.

And that's, you know, Unipass Mailock, that's why it's being designed. So it just plugs into Outlook, it just looks and feels like you're using Outlook with the peace of mind that it's absolutely secure, you know it's been sent to the right person.

You can recall it and it, you know, it makes it unopenable by the person you've sent it to, so but it- you know, had it been and I think it's just like a two click sign up.

It has to be easy, has to be, and there's no instruction manual because you don't need it.

No, no, I agree, I agree. It's been really interesting. I always like to finish on something a bit more personal because some of the most, well profound statements I've had out of these sessions are when people get a chance to think about their past and, and, and advice they would give, I always ask the question, what advice would you give to your younger self, career wise and otherwise is there, is there anything that you know, maybe not one thing, but you know, any words of wisdom you can share.

Anthony: Well one was this funny one I can think of is- I would have said if you visit Mexico don't have the clams on the first night.

It was before the pandemic and I literally spend ten days in bed.

So that's one. If think back to sort of the middle part of my career. I used to be somebody that got quite stressed about stuff. I would dwell on things. I would worry about stuff.

And, you know, I could feel adrenaline pumping. I just I just thought that there was something wrong with me and I was maybe not well equipped to deal with all that kind of stuff.

People were better than me at dealing with that sort of stuff. And it was I mean, maybe about 15 years ago, I actually discovered how the brain works and what stress is, you know the fight or flight response and mindfulness as a way of just relaxing about things.

And for the last, it took a couple of years to kind of master it but over the last maybe 13 years I've been really calm and it's been beneficial for me personally and for my, my business life and my sort of family life as well.

So it would have been, the message to my younger self would have been at the very start of your career learn that stuff and make sure you look after yourself and that you're giving your brain a little break, things aren't really as bad as they might seem because my first half of my career might have been a lot easier actually.

So probably that would be the one piece of advice. We underestimate the power of the brain and I think that most people are pretty intelligent, but I think what maybe holds a lot of people back is that the resilience to you know this crazy world that we live in.

And so I would have learned that sooner.

Paul: Yeah, no, that is a good one. And I have a suspicion at some point I hope, Sam, my colleague who's the one that does all the clever editing around this stuff will post together- so far, every person has come up with their good words and words of wisdom.

If you sit them together and get someone to listen to those alone, there's a good lesson. So that, that's really useful.

Fantastic listen I think, you know, probably given where we're up to we have been talking for long enough now.

But, thanks so much for agreeing to join in with our podcast.

I hope the listeners have got a bit more under the skin not only of Origo but of Anthony Rafferty and yeah, thank you very much for coming along.

Anthony: Well, it's been a pleasure. I've enjoyed it.

Paul: Cheers Anthony.


Originally posted on 06 04 23
Last updated on September 5, 2023

Posted by: Paul Holland

CEO and Founder of Beyond Encryption, Paul is an expert on digital identity, fintech, cyber security, and business. As a key driver behind the development of Webline, one of the UK’s most well-known comparison engines, Paul has vast experience in developing digital technologies and bringing them to market. Through Beyond Encryption’s Mailock, nigel and AssureScore solutions, he aims to make a positive impact by helping regulated businesses engage with customers while keeping their data secure.

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