We caught up with Vicky Wilson, founder of new bereavement start-up Settld, which aims to reduce unnecessary red-tape stress for thousands of people in the UK dealing with the death of a loved one.
Tell us about your new venture, Settld
Settld automates the process of notifying multiple companies when somebody dies and their accounts need to be closed. We’ve designed this solution to speed up a stressful process that takes weeks and months to complete. Settld is backed by an international law firm, Womble Bond Dickinson, and is currently working with many leading service providers, regulators, think tanks, charities and members of parliament to bring about a new #BereavementStandard alongside our technical solution. The service will be free of charge to members of the public.
How did you have the idea to start the company?
Late last year, my grandma died and it left my dad floored with grief. To help him out, my mum and I ended up sorting out details of the funeral and dealing with her estate administration. Bereavement account closure isn’t something you think about until you find yourself in the awful position of having to make all those calls to utilities, banks, broadband, mobile and other household services – uttering the same line over and over again: ‘My grandma has died’. Between my mum and I, it took more than 10 hours just to initiate the account closure process, and more than four weeks of calls and emails back and forth, to sort everything out. My grandma’s affairs were simple, so we realised there is a clear need for a service like Settld. We don’t want other families to go through the same unnecessary stress that we did.
What is a bereavement standard and why do you think it’s important for the UK to implement one?
At the moment, there is no standard. Some service providers require the original death certificate, some a copy, others don’t need anything at all. They all have different timelines for getting back to customers and there is no consistency in the customer care channels which can be used to make contact. We’ve heard stories about it taking months, if not years, for people to close accounts due to all the red tape.
You only have to look at the responses to our petition at change.org/BereavementStandard to see that a minimum cross-industry standard needs to be put in place. Once we have a Bereavement Standard, it will make it easier and less stressful for everyone when it comes to closing the accounts of those who have died.
The good news is that the response so far, from companies, parliamentary and consumer groups, has been really encouraging. On July 23rd 2020, Settld will be hosting the first Bereavement Working Group session with leading representatives from all these parties, to discuss what a minimum standard looks like and how to bring it about.
What do you have planned for your first year of launch?
By the end of July this year, we will launch our product for local authorities and law firms who currently have to spend time and money closing accounts for citizens and clients respectively. What we’ve seen from testing is that our service will save them countless hours and resource. Then, by the end of 2020, Settld plans to launch our service to all individuals and families, for free, nationwide. That will enable customers to log on to our website, fill in a form, upload the required documents in just a few minutes, and we look after everything from that point. Once we have a Bereavement Standard in place, we will be able to complete the process in days, rather than the weeks and months it currently takes to get things sorted. We will also continue to look for additional investment to help us grow quickly.
How big is your team so far and where are you based?
We have an international team of superstars, composed of 9 different nationalities, from Brazil to the UK. We were just getting off the ground when the pandemic was taking hold globally, but we have all been working from home and making good use of collaboration tools and platforms, and we have had a virtual drinks party where we could all let our hair down. Lockdown has made little difference to our development as a company and perhaps has allowed us to bring in outstanding talent that otherwise we might not have secured.
What can individuals do to help before you launch?
If you’d like to help us build the momentum for a new Bereavement Standard, please sign and share our #BereavementStandard petition. We believe that every signature helps bring the government a little closer to accountability — and bereaved families a little faster to closure.