Gadgets that could improve brokers’ lives

I\'m all for gadgets that make you feel like you\'ve stepped onto the set of Star Trek, particularly if they help improve the quality of brokers\' lives.

You may have seen the fantastic computer screen featured on the television recently that allows users to drag images Minority Report-style, expand pictures by using two fingers and open documents simply by tapping on them.

The desktop version, Microsoft Surface (yours for a cool £8,500), comes in the form of a stunning glass tabletop display including wi-fi and bluetooth capabilities. If you put a camera or phone on it the pictures download automatically. Obviously I want one.

A gadget perhaps more relevant to brokers’ daily working lives PenStream.

This records the movement of your hand as you write in ink on a specially tailored document such as a fact-find, then stores the information electronically.

The unit uploads this when you plug it in at home later, giving you an electronic copy of your data.

This could save a considerable amount of re-keying now that mortgage broking programs can export client data to one another.

For example, I can envisage it being used in a client management system that feeds through to a sourcing system and then to a lenders’ online application.

One aspect of brokers’ work routines that could be tougher to make more satisfying is compliance training, but a new computer game from PlayGen attempts to do just that.

Recognising that training, learning and testing for anti-money laundering activities could be a little dull it has released a game called Anti Money Laundering, in which players take on the role of secret agents.

Part platform and part strategy the game resembles The Sims to look at but instead of growing virtual vegetables you receive instructions, meet key players in various organisations and play roles which lead you into the criminal underworld and teach you how to detect money laundering.

Compliance advisory firm The Consulting Consortium describes the game as engaging and exciting yet realistic, which is a far cry from the last compliance test I did.

But is playing computer games in the office the best way for brokers to spend their time? Should regulation training be fun? And should it be assumed that brokers are more comfortable with a game than a sheet of paper?

Compliance departments can decide for themselves how game scores could be used to satisfy Financial Services Authority standards for their staff.

The principle behind learning through games is known as pseudo-experience and has been embraced elsewhere. In the US a game called Virtual Iraq is used to help veterans through post-traumatic stress disorder.

It may be a simple anti-money laundering test today but this could branch out into Treating Customers Fairly scenarios and eventually full virtual mortgage and protection advice interviews.

It could be argued that any experience is good training. And anyway, if you’re going to make a big mistake it’s nice to be able to press the reset button afterwards.

To see a promotional video for PlayGen’s game, type Anti Money Laundering game into YouTube.