"We believe that in the era of digital communication, the bereavement process can be made more efficient, quicker and more secure."
We spoke to Nick Cousins, founder and CEO of Exizent, about how its proposition helps to improve the bereavement experience for all - legal services, institutions, executors and families - and how the pandemic has affected the probate process.
FR: Tell us a bit about Exizent’s proposition and why it is important?
Death is a difficult time for everyone. And sadly, the processes that come with it don’t make it any easier. They can be lengthy, repetitive, and complicated, dragging things out for everyone involved. Exizent’s innovative platform puts everything in one place, making it easier for legal services firms and institutions to work together to sort out what is needed, easing the burden on executors and families.
Exizent’s proposition is to create a better connection for the data, processes and network of people involved when someone passes away. Having seen friends and families struggle with processing someone’s estate, we believe that in the era of digital communication, the bereavement process can be made more efficient, quicker and more secure.
Initially, working with legal services firms and financial institutions, the Exizent platform will put everything in one place to help everyone work together and ease the burden on executors and families.
Last year, our focus was to build a highly skilled team and develop our first release of our dedicated legal services software. Now in 2021, we’re using that foundation to accelerate our development work with financial institutions to deliver additional value for all sides of the platform. The work we are doing currently involves a pilot with a building society to improve the process involved in notifying financial institutions when an account holder passes away.
FR: What are the current issues financial institutions are facing in terms of the probate process and has the pandemic made things worse?
Before Covid-19 hit, we had already recognised that the probate process was a challenging one for everyone concerned. Not only is there a huge amount of admin involved but there is also a real lack of connection between the connected parties – legal firms, financial institutions, and consumers. There are also very few options when it comes to software and tech designed specifically for executry work, and certainly no ‘universal’ solution. As a result, the process is long and inefficient, which is frustrating for law firms, financial institutions, and other professional services and stressful for executors, who are also often dealing with the emotional strain of a bereavement.
The pandemic has exacerbated these challenges further. Many financial institutions are having difficulties in accessing the documents they need, while others do not have the processes in place to process sensitive information remotely. Then there is the sad fact that deaths have increased over the past year, which has increased the workload. This combined with the issues of home working - and in many cases reduced staff numbers due to people being furloughed or forced to shield - has made keeping on top of the paperwork hugely challenging.
In short, the bereavement process was already broken, made worse with remote working, and being asked to handle more cases than ever. Our platform connects all those involved in the bereavement process to make it easier. We are harnessing the fact that we live in an era of digital communication and increasingly more accessible personal data to create a bespoke cloud-based solution to enable legal services firms to integrate directly with financial institutions. Our aim is to transform this outdated process, reduce uncertainty, increase speed, and make it far simpler for everyone involved.
FR: What impact would Exizent have on financial institutions?
The positive impact Exizent offers those banks and financial institutions that come on board is considerable. With this one continually improved and developed platform, we will connect all parties, giving law firms access to all the data they need for asset discovery and shifting much of the onus from financial institutions.
While all banks and financial institutions will have probate specialists, and in most cases, dedicated probate departments, many now also offer executor services. By integrating with the Exizent platform, these institutions will not only benefit in terms of their probate responsibilities (more efficient asset discovery and sharing of information) but also in terms of their responsibilities as an executor.
There have already been some successful, smaller scale integrations where financial institutions have joined up with individual law firms to offer an integrated probate service. We offer a standardised solution. Exizent is a multi-sided technology platform that aims to revolutionise the process by connecting all the different groups, data and services involved in bereavement, allowing all financial institutions and solicitors across the UK to work together in a more efficient way.
FR: How will Exizent ensure it is always up to date?
Exizent is in active development with new services and features released regularly, guided by user research and our service design approach. Therefore, once a firm becomes a customer of Exizent, they will never need to upgrade because by working closely with all our client firms, and continually innovating and adapting our platform, we will be able to ensure that it will always meet their needs.
Exizent was developed in conjunction with, and tested by, law firms and financial institutions working within probate to ensure it provided the solutions they needed. But we know it is a fluid process, so, to make sure the platform continues to meet users’ needs, we have created the ‘Exizent Research Community’. This is where we invite and develop relationships with members of the industry to provide constant insights, to inform our solutions and improve the bereavement process.
This has been further highlighted during the pandemic, as, due to its cloud-based design, the platform is easily able to adapt to consumers’ remote working needs. In the same way that we are constantly innovating and adapting the platform to ensure it continues to meet ever-changing needs of our clients, we are also able to ensure any institutional changes are reflected too.
FR: How much experience does Exizent have in the financial services sector?
I have more than 20 years of experience across the financial and service sector. I worked at Barclays for 10 years where I was instrumental in the technological evolution of the wealth and investment management model.
We also recently appointed former Nationwide non-executive director Mitchel Lenson as Non-Executive Chairman. Mitchel’s career has spanned over 30 years. He has held senior positions at Deutsche Bank, UBS Warburg, Credit Suisse First Boston and most recently, Nationwide. He also has extensive technology experience and currently sits on the board of fintech firm Currency Cloud. He brings a proven track record in financial services and technical innovation and shares our vision to make the bereavement experience better for everyone. His appointment is a key step in our evolution as we seek to work more closely with financial institutions.