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BT Assure Public Key Infrastructure enables certification of IFAs in the UK and improves their productivity in 70 per cent of cases

Trust is a prerequisite for any ecommerce service; and it’s got to be earned before it’s given. So when Garry Miller was tasked with setting up a digital certification service for IFAs in the UK, one of the primary reasons for his choice of BT was confidence in the company’s stability.

Operating as a trust service provider, BT now provides an outsourced public key infrastructure, through which it issues the required digital certificates and thereby provides the basis for industry-wide IFA authentication processes. With tScheme approval, the BT service gives confidence to Garry and his 33,000 financial services end clients.


The BT Assure PKI service gives confidence to our company and our clients alike. The fact that it’s cost effective and fully managed, leaving us the space to concentrate on customer service, is the icing on the cake.”
- Garry Miller, General Manager, Origo Secure Internet Services


Well over 20 years ago, sixteen leading UK life assurance, pensions and investment companies teamed up to devise a secure electronic commerce strategy. The creation of Origo Services, which supplies security software solutions to the UK financial services industry, was the outcome. Today Origo’s shareholders include Standard Life, Aviva, Friends Life, Legal and General, Scottish Widows, Royal London, Prudential, AEGON, Zurich, UNUM Provident, AXA Wealth, Ageas, MetLife and Just Retirement.

Unipass from Origo allows financial services providers to authenticate independent financial advisors (IFAs) who sell their products, and effectively acts as an IFA registration authority. During development of Unipass the company approached BT to provide a managed digital certification service. “A strong brand, stability and industry best practice were the main contributing factors to our choice of BT,” says Paul Pettitt, Managing Director at Origo Services.


BT proposed the use of a public key infrastructure (PKI) platform. Comprising the hardware, software, processes, procedures and documentation needed for a company to be able to issue and manage its own digital certificates, a PKI can either be built and run as a DIY operation or outsourced to a trust service provider (TSP). OSIS chose the latter route, to get full PKI benefits without having to run the service itself.

“Outsourcing allows us to deliver a high quality service without tying up our own resources,” explains Garry Miller, General Manager, Origo Secure Internet Services. “The ability of BT to flex the arrangement to meet our changing requirements, now and in the future, is vital.”

The BT Assure Public Key Infrastructure proposed is based on a shared platform operated by dedicated BT teams whose members have been fully security vetted. Delivered from an accredited BT data centre, it uses software and intellectual property provided by Symantec.

“We maintain stringent legal and contractual terms with our end users,” says Garry Miller, “and we validate applications for individual Unipass certification against equally strict criteria.” Once satisfied as to the legitimacy of the application, Origo securely passes the relevant information to BT, and a digital certificate is issued direct to the individual concerned. Unipass works much like an electronic passport. The digital certificate contains verified identity details of the end user, for whom the service is free.

The capability to issue the entire regulated UK IFA population with certificates, along with separate test and live certification authority levels, are included in the BT service offering. Furthermore, online certificate status protocol enables financial services providers to make real time checks via BT on the validity of any Unipass certificate presented to them by an IFA.

The service also has tScheme approval. People and organisations need to have trust and confidence in ecommerce. To that end, tScheme is a self-regulated UK cross-industry body that helps defend against fraud and loss of privacy. It does this by setting out and auditing standards for ecommerce services provided by TSPs.


A key outsourcing benefit was the time and money saved in setting up the service. Rather than having to build and implement the platform, Origo simply plugged-in to the existing shared BT Assure Public Key Infrastructure. “We only paid a one-off set up fee,” says Garry Miller, “avoiding a large capital outlay to get everything up and running.” Annual per-user licence costs are charged by BT for the managed service.

OSIS currently has more than 33,000 live certificates in circulation, held by IFAs representing more than 8,000 firms. Once in possession of their Unipass certificates, IFAs can access the online websites, extranets and web portals of the financial services providers they work with, without the worry of trying to remember or record endless passwords and login details.

Through Unipass, Origo helps financial services companies cut costs and become more efficient while forging cost effective IFA channels to market. Such has been the success of the product that research carried out by Origo found that more than 70 per cent of IFAs said that UNIPASS had improved their productivity.

The shared nature of the BT Assure Public Key Infrastructure platform means that the service can easily be scaled if required and support is never far away, with a dedicated BT trust services helpdesk always ready to deal with technical or service enquiries. That’s ideal for companies that want to make minimal investments, while having complete access to and control over a service capable of certificating thousands of end users.

Paul Pettitt concludes: “We’re very happy with the BT Assure Public Key Infrastructure service provided by BT and we’ve developed a strong and successful partnership. Its people are reliable and responsive to our requests and, given the nature of the service, that’s essential.”

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  • BT Assure Public Key Infrastructure