In an interview with Today’s Wills and Probate, Vicky Wilson, CEO and co-founder of Settld, opens up about how she formed the tech startup company Settld and her involvement in the #BereavementStandard.
Vicky co-founded Settld after more than eight years with Amazon where she worked in international marketing, product and logistics roles. She spent four years developing new business models to improve customer experience at the online retailer. She’s volunteered with the Quaker Social Action Funeral Poverty charity, and prior to launching Settld, she undertook work experience as a Funeral Arranger. Vicky co-founded Settld with mother Julie, a business consultant and registered funeral celebrant.
This month, end-of-life admin startup Settld jointly hosted a conference with Probate Network, along with Michael Culver, Chairman of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) and Ian Bond, Member of the Law Society of England & Wales Wills and Equity Committee and probate practitioners from more than 60 law firms to call for digital death certificates and cross industry standards to support grieving families.
The Bereavement Standard would speed up end-of-life account closure processes, standardise documents with acceptance of digital versions where possible, and oblige service providers to provide dedicated bereavement channels for customers to contact, with properly trained staff.
What made you set up Settld?
Settld is born from a personal experience of loss and the frustration at existing end of life processes. Late last year, my grandma died and it fell upon me and my mum to sort out all her affairs. Amongst other activities, we found ourselves calling around banks, utilities, pension providers, insurers, TV licence, broadband, mobile and other household services, to notify them of her death. It took 10 hours to do this, and more than 6 weeks to sort everything out. At that point, we realised there was definitely a need for an automated bereavement service to notify multiple companies about a death, in one go. And so started Settld!
What did you do prior to setting up Settld?
I worked for almost eight years at Amazon, across Retail, Amazon Web Services (Cloud Computing), Audible and Amazon Logistics – to get a broad sweep of how different functions operate. The last four years of my time there was spent developing new business models and services to improve customer experience, so Settld is making good use of all that past hard work and training. Prior to Settld, after my grandma died, I also volunteered for a UK Funeral Poverty charity, and undertook some work experience as a Funeral Arranger. I wanted to better understand how professionals in end-of-life care best support the bereaved. In addition, my mum and I went on a roadshow across the UK, talking to Celebrants, Funeral Directors, Probate Solicitors and Local Authorities to make sense of it all.
Vicky Wilson and her Grandma, June
Explain Settld’s objectives in three sentences
Settld’s mission is to help people navigate end of life processes, as easily as possible. We are starting by simplifying end of life administration for those who have to notify multiple organisations when somebody dies. Settld speeds up a process which can take weeks and months for people to complete at the moment.
How does it work?
Settld is a simple online form which takes minutes for people to fill in and upload the required documentation. We then use this information to notify all organisations in one go, and handle everything from there. Our service is free to members of the public and always will be.
Which institutions are you working with?
We interface with all major household and financial services providers, as well as social media players. We’re adding services to our list all the time, based on user feedback.
What does success look like for Settld?
Satisfied customers who are able to reduce the time and stress involved in what is currently a very protracted process.
What are your top 3 biggest obstacles?
1. At the moment, without a Bereavement Standard, we are only as good as the organisational processes on the other side.
2. Death certificates – some companies still demand the paper copies which slows up the process and causes stress for the bereaved when more than one company wants it.
3. Getting change to happen as fast as we want it.
How does it differ from the Equiniti Death Notification Service?
There is currently no one offering the services that we do. Tell Us Once is a useful government service, enabling people to close their public sector accounts and Equiniti handles a number of larger financial accounts. Settld’s focus is to help people close everything in one go: utility, banking, pensions, insurance, broadband, mobile, TV, entertainment subscriptions and all other household and digital accounts.
Tell us more about #BereavementStandard
At the moment, there is no standard process for companies to handle bereavement cases. Service providers ask for different documents and paperwork, take varying lengths of times to respond to bereavement cases, don’t always offer direct bereavement lines etc. You only have to look at the responses to our petition at change.org/BereavementStandard to see that there is a need for a unified approach across industry, to better support the bereaved and professionals who work with them. Once a Bereavement Standard is in place, it will make it easier and less stressful for everyone when it comes to account closure for those who have died. We encourage everyone to sign and share the petition, as each signature helps us drive change.