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Trends · 1 March '21

Why technology is helping to reduce bereavement trauma

Death is still seen by many as an uncomfortable subject, a taboo topic, and something people don’t quite know how to approach. As a nation we’re not accustomed to discussing death, however, as difficult as the discussion may be, it’s never been more important for us to begin talking more openly about this topic, and more specifically, the process of estate management.

Losing a loved one is never easy, but dealing with afterlife administration shouldn’t be an added difficulty at a time when people are already under great emotional strain.  Organising a persons’ estate after their passing is currently extremely time-consuming and complex, placing a huge burden on those already grieving. The main issue is that this process is outdated and still carried out manually in most cases, requiring executors to notify each company that the deceased had an account with individually.

This can take months at a time to sort with consumer group Which? revealing that one in six people (17%) spent more than three months labouring over the process of closing their loved one’s bank account before the first national lockdown. This increased drastically to 37% following March 2020 as lockdown protocols were implemented across the UK. According to our own research, which we carried out in November 2020, collectively British families are spending over 7 million hours a year closing services of a loved one, with a third (32%) suffering trauma as a result of the process. It’s clear that this needs to change and now.

The current situation

Currently, the public sector is leaps and bounds ahead of the private sector when it comes to death notifications. The government’s ‘Tell Us Once’ service allows an individual to report a death to most government organisations in one go through a simple online registration process. The method for private businesses in comparison is much more complex and disparate.

With no standard and regulated process in the private sector, each company has varying ways of being contacted as well as different documentation requirements and processes. This means that at the moment, when someone passes away, each company the deceased has an account with such as banks, subscription services and mobile contracts, all have to be individually notified. As I have already alluded to earlier, this format of communication is extremely time consuming and drawn out, especially if response times are slow and communication is required by different means – post, phone, online forms and email.

The time spent on this causes great strain on the bereaved adding to what is already a difficult time. The unnecessary need to spend months repeating the same information to each company and complete the same forms only serves to add to an individual’s stress and trauma.

How technology can ease the burden

There is therefore demand for the private sector to effectively receive and process death notifications with as little burden to the individual as possible. Fortunately, this sector is already on the path to modernising. Estate management processes are beginning to embrace digital adoption, a welcome advance not only for the bereaved but also for businesses. This has also been sped up by the impact of the pandemic, which has been a catalyst for change, forcing companies to adopt digital processes at a much faster pace. Critical steps forward to streamlining the death notification process was taken in the form of emergency legislation which now allows for digital copies of death certificates to be used for official purposes such as confirming a death with a bank – something that was previously prevented by Crown copyright.

The use of technology in the death notifications process eliminates the need to individually contact each organisation. In a similar vein to the public sector, the private sector is now accumulating all notifications in one place, where users can complete a registration form and communicate with all the necessary companies at the same time with the click of a button. Services such as banks, utilities, insurance companies, mobile phone providers, loyalty cards and other subscriptions services, can be informed in a few easy steps, reducing the time and the strain of administering a death. By digitising this process both the bereaved and the businesses benefit, creating a streamlined and simple method for death notifications to be carried out – the way it should be.