A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post for our sister blog over at getsponge.com called 3 reasons to stop interrupting and listen. It was inspired by this quote from Craig Davis, Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide at J. Walter Thompson:
“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.”
When it comes to financial planning, the subject that people are most likely to be interested in is themselves; Even if we didn’t all suffer from a touch of self-absorption that would make sense. After all, financial planning is all about an individual journey, a personal relationship with money that has the power to make or break dreams and aspirations.
Strange then that so many traditional financial services providers persist in focusing on products rather than people.
Ask most people what’s guaranteed to make them switch off it will be the hard sell, yet visit the website of most high street banks and you’ll be met with page after page of product specs and sales speak. Granted, it’s delivered in a slightly more dour, FSA compliant way and is perhaps a touch more subtle than your average market trader but, at the end of the day, these websites list products designed for mass markets. They don’t speak to individual needs, they don’t speak to individual circumstances, they rarely cater for individual levels of financial knowledge.
IFAs realised long ago that servicing a customer is about far more than arranging products. Good IFAs – like Pete Matthew for example – are realising long before most that digital tools can be used to make financial advice more accessible, more effective – and more cost efficient to deliver.
So, what happens when RDR comes along and changes the advice model forever? What happens when self-service fund choice increases and people feel peer pressure to self-select?
Sadly, what’s likely to happen is that more and more people will struggle through life making financial decisions without the necessary support, tools or background information.
According to MoneyVista, there are 11 million UK consumers who do not have a relationship with a financial advisor and do their own financial planning. I’d like to believe that most of these are making excellent, well informed choices….. I suspect, however, that many are not.
Making financial data beautiful has a part to play in solving that problem. Digital financial planning isn’t just about delivering advice more quickly or cheaply than before, it’s about using technology to bring dull topics to life, using online tools and calculators to cut through the jargon and illustrate the impact that financial decisions can have.
It’s about using digital tools to literally walk someone through their financial future… and that’s exactly what MoneyVista do.
Launched in 2011, MoneyVista is a subscription-based service that lets you input all of your financial details – savings, mortgage, pension, even the child benefit! – and see how they’re forecast to change over the rest of your life. You can fiddle to your heart’s content with salary calculators, savings scenarios and all manner of planning tools, not to mention swot up on an entire online library of financial guides.
You can scroll through the years and see how your monthly income is expected to rise and fall and, yes, you can hit the point when your own life expectancy is expected to, well, run out.
Along the way you can choose to be hand held by tutorials or jump ahead and wing it if you’re more financially confident, and throughout the site videos are used to take communication to the next level.
The service is designed to help put individual financial decisions into a wider, long term context. There are no products on sale here because your financial life is determined by life choices rather than product features.
Of course, many people who sign up for MoneyVista – taking advantage of the 30 days free access on offer for all – will ultimately have product needs that require servicing. Infact, it’s precisely that eventuality that led to IFAOnline welcoming MoneyVista as a service that could sit happily alongside IFAs.
As Mark Loosmore, writing for IFAOnline, rightly points out, “if the advice proposition is well articulated… it could grow the market of informed and interested individuals to the point where they recognise they need advice.”
IFAOnline believe that’s something to be welcomed in today’s “changing and sometimes challenging market” and so do we. This issue of moving from product sales to planning services is something we’ll no doubt return to as RDR gets closer and financial technology continues to challenge the status quo.
Some people question the extent to which consumers will part with £75 a year to subscribe to MoneyVista but, if banks continue to ignore customer demand for personalised engagement and the cost of advice continues to rise, it’s pretty easy to see why they might.