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Cool Tech Interlude

Google Plus, Facebook updates, Kindle Fire - even the Boeing 787 - and many, many more: I'm just thrilled with all the cool new tech there is sloshing around these days. There is simply not enough time to catch up with it all.

I've blogged for more than five years now. Originally hosted services were really nasty affairs - but today there are many offering really great services, many options, design services, different formats for different types of website / blogs / systems / presentations / micro-sites... you name it. That led me to connect my story posts to a twitter feed. LinkedIn was pitched to me by a friend as "Facebook for grown ups" - I adopted that and I has now become a valuable tool - mainly for contacted details, resume details, renewing old connections, and keeping up to date with professional moves. It also takes a feed from my blog. Nice. Then I re-activated a long-dormant Facebook account sometime last year and finally 'got it'. I communicate far more with by brother, Aunts, and cousins now I'm on Facebook regularly. But Google Plus looks interesting, and although facebook is a great app, it has a lot of faults: Google could do it better. I shall see.The privacy thing is an issue - and that think where most FB apps require you to authorise them to post stuff to your wall - well that's rubbish.

I got a Kindle for my birthday a couple of months ago. On the recent trip it was fabulous: I had more than 60 books with me (which would have left little room for clothes had I taken hard copies). The device itself is light and a pleasure to read. Now they have a still smaller, lighter, version. But that was only a sidelight to the launch of the new Kindle Fire tablet. I am keen to get my hands on it. I've used I-pads and older Android tablets and I am not keen on Android - but apparently the Kindle Fire is different, and the user experience is much better. As an aside I notice that of the top ten books banned in 2011 seven are published by Amazon for delivery to a Kindle. I doubt whether many books are bought by the cab drivers, student, and street vendors who launched rebellions across the Arab world this year, but it is heartening to think that it is getting harder to limit the freedom to read.

But I what I would really like is a flight on a new Boeing 787. A lower cabin altitude, 25% lower emissions, bigger windows, and best of all - 60% less noise! Recent flights I've been on an A380 and a 777-200. Although I was very excited by the prospect of the A380, I have to say the flight on the 777 was much better. It was quieter, and with a nicer fit out (although that could have just been Air New Zealand compared to Air France's pack-em-in layout). But grabbing a ride is unlikely as the only one 'delivered' so far has gone to ANA (it's actually in fit out). But heck, I loved Japan so much when I was there on the weekend, I am keen to go back. I still have my Suica card...

Down for 4 days is a disgrace

This article offers some strong - and much deserved - criticism on the failure of a number if government websites, including our own FSP site. 

Hat tip: Kiwiblog

via Byline

Hamish Fletcher at NZ Herald reports:

Internet failures that have forced the Companies Office and 14 other Government websites offline for four days have been described as an international embarrassment.
Other websites caught up in the outage include the Personal Property Securities Register, Intellectual Property Office and Ministry of Consumer Affairs sites. …
The MED blamed the outage on upgrade work to the servers hosting the sites.
Unscheduled outages should be measured in minutes, not days.
The companies office site especially is a high demand site.
I have some experience with such a site. I was a director from 2002 to 2010 of the NZ Domain Name Registry Ltd, which is known as .nz Registry Services (NZRS). They operate the registry for .nz domain names.
The service level agreement with the Domain Name Commission Ltd (which I now serve on) specifies that the registry must be available 99.9% of the time (excluding scheduled outages notified in advance) on a monthly basis. This means that any unscheduled outages must last no longer than 43 minutes over a month, or the company would be in breach of the SLA.

To help achieve that, a lot of redundancy is built into the system. In fact there are parallel systems in Wellington and Auckland, so if one city is unavailable, the other system can kick in.
If NZRS had an unscheduled outage of four days, I imagine there would have been resignations from both the board and senior management, unless it was for the most exceptional and unavoidable reason. I certainly would have offered my resignation as a Director to the shareholder (InternetNZ).

The companies office website is excellent. I use it often, and it is one of the reasons we score highly on ease of business surveys. You can establish a company in under an hour, all online. But the more vital a service becomes, the more important it is that you ensure it remains up.

MED should at a minimum commission an independent report into what went wrong, and what they need to do to prevent such an outage in future.

Tags: MED

Several KiwiSaver "C" Words

Goodreturns get's edgy by using the title "The C-Word" for it's review of Labour's possible policy to make KiwiSaver compulsory. As original architects of the scheme they have more right than anyone else to raise such an issue - although they should explain why a deliberate strategy combining a form of voluntary membership and bribes were first considered the right approach, and why those reasons now no longer apply.

The other "c" word is categorisation. If KiwiSaver is so important and so good it can be made compulsory, and several hundred thousand people dumped into the scheme without their permission, how can you require a financial advisers provides a full personal financial plan to sell one to someone? If full financial planning is required, then how can you make it compulsory? Unless you make full personal financial planning compulsory... something doesn't quite add up.


Yes, I have written to dead people...

Have you ever written to dead people? I have. I didn't do it on purpose, nor did I do it out of callous carelessness. I still remember the fuss when a client's bereaved wife phoned in tears to someone else, who then promptly marched in to tell my then boss that I had obviously screwed up because I had managed to write to someone who had died.

After a little quiet reflection we all realised that it was completely unavoidable.

If you write to several hundred thousand people, and the mailing list is prepared on a Monday, the data sent to the mailhouse on Tuesday, the letters printed and stuffed on the Wednesday, by the time they are posted and received perhaps on Thursday, but some as late as the following Monday, then someone will probably have died.

The point is this. Running a small business, as I do, and as most insurance brokers do, you might go your whole career without acidentally writing to a dead person. Which means that you may react in horror at the thought you could do it - or even, initially, that it might be virtually impossible to avoid.

You probably also think that having clients complain is terrible, and avoidable. But ask anyone who runs a business on a large scale and they realise it is unavoidable. Often insurance companies can't help insurance brokers - they are, frankly, usually a bad source of advice on prospecting (better to ask other advisers). But on complaints, they receive plenty. Many are thoroughly deserved, but some are complete rubbish. As an adviser if you are contemplating a complaints management system you can do worse than check with a few insurers about their written policies on the matter.

Inhouse Agencies

The news that Friends in the UK has set up an inhouse agency may remind New Zealand life insurers that they could be a solution. Our problem is a market in which possibly nine tenths of insurance brokers have decided to avoid giving investment advice, and yet a good proportion of their clients (and clients of insurers) will seek it. That leaves the insurer with a problem.

Often the client will ask the insurer a question which requires an AFA to answer - and it may equally often take them outside the insurers product scope.That means even an in-house staff member trained to AFA level won't be sufficiently skilled to answer the question - it must actually be someone practising as an AFA who could source relevant product to meet the client's requirements and has the competence that can only come from actual practice.

It simply isn't possible to audit every adviser for an effective referral relationship. Sooner or later the company will need to have an option. Will it refer outside on an ad hoc basis? Will it create a systematic referral to a single third party agency? Or will it develop an in-house agency? There are strengths and weaknesses in each approach: but the third option definitely needs to be considered.

Trauma Take-up

In a recent article in Goodreturns Sue Laing of The Risk Store pointed out the benefit of a co-ordinated approach to Trauma benefit conditions - a lift in take up rates. The UK took this approach and lifted participation in the product to around 25%. What is it in New Zealand? Well, therre are 205,000 policies according to the ISI and many policyholders will have more than one policy. But leaving that aside, the 'raw' rate of ownership as a percentage of our total population (4.414 million) is only 4.6%. Even if the eligible population is only half that our participation rate in the product is very low. Definitely an opportunity.

Complaints Estimates

Spotted over at goodreturns on the comment thread:

Most advisers in the industry are doing the right thing by their clients and as a consequence will never have a complaint to deal with in the first place

That's my emphasis added. Sorry, but I think this is a poor estimate - there will be many complaints, and some even when the adviser has 'done the right things by their clients'.