UK retail banking and insurance companies say the cost and complexity of regulations could restrict their ability to deliver services.

Compliance legislation - designed to improve the quality and clarity of communication to customers – is actually distracting companies from customer service, according to research carried out on behalf of document generation supplier Thunderhead and outsourcing firm Xansa. Many organisations are trying to support over 10,000 document templates, each subject to changing compliance regulations.

Just under half of the UK retail banks and insurance companies surveyed admitted it was either difficult or very difficult to affect the mandatory changes to documents in time deadlines such as the impending A-Day – when new pension rules come into force - on 6th April 2006.

However, 58 per cent claimed that compliance, and the penalty for non-compliance, will make it imperative to move to a more efficient customer documentation system. “When we talk to clients in this sector, their concern is not only that there could be potential fines, but that in certain circumstances they would not be able to continue processing business,” said Nikki Tyson, director of marketing at Thunderhead.

Nearly two thirds (65 per cent) said that effecting any changes imposed on documents and templates by the UK financial regulator, the FSA, would be very or quite costly. Only ten per cent of respondents said it very easy to make the changes, and five per cent believed it would not be costly. “Organisations are going to exceptional lengths to make sure they’re compliant, but in a huge number of cases it’s a manual process that they’re going through, and that’s enormously time-consuming,” said Tyson.

Improved customer documentation should help in the long run, by increasing the value of a bank's brand, said 71 per cent of respondents, but only 15 per cent said they had already implemented radical changes.

Thunderhead and Xansa - who see this as an untapped market - will be offering document generation systems that generate compliant customer communications. According to Tyson, even if an organisation has already started, the systems will help them comply more quickly.