Steve here subbing in for Mark who is off listening to some sehr laut thrash metal in Hamburg. As you do. I was meant to be writing the Update last week but then Intelliflo went and announced that thing with SS&C and here we are. We are nothing if not flexible.
Gonna kick this Update off with an authenticity truth bomb. These next few paragraphs are written with the intention of getting you to do one thing. Just one wee thing. Best being honest.
For the past six months or so, my colleague Rich and I have been working on a paper and it launched (wheee!) on the 8th June there. I’d love it if you downloaded it and you can do so here or you can click on it at the end of this Update. I’m not fussy.
The paper (supported I should say by abrdn who got right out of the way while we did our thing) is on the thing that the advice profession repeatedly tells us frustrates them the most. The thing that determines satisfaction with a provider. The thing they’d invest in the most. The best thing about the providers they like. And the worst thing about the ones that drive them up the wall. Yep. Service.
If I was being insufferably trite I might highlight here that both Rich and I kicked off our respective careers working in service. Him at a platform provider. Me at a big media company (where I learned that some of the angriest people in the world are those that can’t get their telly to work) and then a LifeCo (where I learned that the rest of the angry people in the world call up LifeCos). I might say that this lent the paper a degree of authenticity but I’m not sure if that’s true or not. That’s for other folk to decide.
What is very much true though is that the paper confirmed a number of things relating to service that all add up to a big ol’ problem for the sector:
- That bit I said at the start. Service is the most important aspect of provider satisfaction.
- Good service, though, means different things to different people.
- These first two bits are good examples of self-evident things that won’t win us any awards.
- Speaking of which, the advice profession doesn’t trust awards and ratings, particularly relating to service.
- Which means that the profession also tells us that it can’t make an informed judgement on service prior to the point of adoption. Awards and ratings are part of this but so is the lack of tangible, rational stuff to compare providers on side by side.
- And the profession also tells us that it feels perpetually let down and poorly served by the sector as a whole. Think transfer times/letter of authority processes etc.
The easy thing to do would be to take pot shots at everyone in a kind of bring-out-your-dead slam-fest where we all bring our worst examples of service to the table. I’m not sure that gets us anywhere though.
I can also see how it can be alluring to take side-swipes at the awards and ratings process, particularly if you’ve been on the receiving end of a shoddy experience from a provider who is simultaneously tweeting its latest award. I get that.
What I don’t believe is that there’s foul play at work. I just don’t. What feels exponentially likelier to me is that life is full of a sort of inelegant, imperfect chaos. You do a thing. And then you do a thing again. And then it becomes an annual thing. Or a quarterly thing. Before you know it it’s a thing that’s embedded within your organisation. And before you know it there’s multiple examples of these things all over the place and then the sector is caught in an endless loop of doing-the-things.
Maybe that’s a hopelessly idealistic view of the world but speaking as someone who is occasionally on the inside of some of these processes, it’s the view I want to be true. While we’re on the subject of hopelessly-idealistic viewpoints, I couldn’t help but write the paper with one eye on the regulator’s post Consumer Duty view that service will soon be so agnostic (i.e. good) across the sector that it will cease to be a differentiator at provider research and due diligence stage. I also still think I have a shot at qualifying for Wimbledon.
Either way, the mandate from the advice profession is as clear and logically coherent as anything I’ve seen in my 20 or so years in research in financial services. Service is the number one determining factor of satisfaction and frustration. But the profession can’t make an informed judgement until it’s often too late. We have to do better.
And I think you should download the paper.
FIVE STAR LINKS
- When I say Consumer, you say Duty. Consumer! Duty! Who loves the Consumer Duty? WE love consumer duty! Not my words, and not really Paul’s either but Mr Hogarth of the Tatton does confess his love a bit here and who am I to argue.
- But who isn’t’ ‘up a tree K.I.S.S.I.N.G with Consumer Dutee’? The advice profession, that’s who. According to Schroders latest adviser research (which chimes with our own back in January) two-fifths think it’s going to have a low impact.
- Big congratulations to Jordan Cruse for becoming the UK’s youngest chartered planner at the age of 21. Twenty-One.
- Music choice this week is of course from Simon and Garfunkel, pioneers of atmospheric, alt-folk rock and big lovers of Net Promoter Score.
See you next week.