Why more accessible advice reminds me of my Nan’s omelettes…

My Nan, on my mums side, was an incredible woman.

A proper east end matriarch who bought up four boys and three daughters (as well as help bring up a bunch of grandchildren….including me!)

A woman who whilst tender and caring, had the resolve to cope with what now seems like her unfair share of ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ which included the impact of war, the deaths of husbands and sons and like many in her position periods where her life was financially incredibly tough.

My Nan also cooked the best omelette in the east end, no scrub that, the best omelette in the world!

Now I’m probably biased but after tasting a lot of omelette’s over the years, and although I appreciate that my judgement is clouded by a nostalgic haze, I haven’t tasted a better omelette yet!

I had a lot of my Nan’s omelettes over the years.

You see from the age of 11 until I was about 14, and because my parents (and my Nan) didn’t want me ‘hanging around the streets’ I habitually spent lunchtimes and usually ate a cooked lunch at my Nan’s house.

Every now and again this bloke used to turn up at my nans house.

I don’t remember much about him only that he wore a suit, he used to stay only for a couple of minutes, collect some cash (which my Nan always had prepared before he arrived) and then return week in week out to collect some more.

“Who is that Nan?” I said curiously one day…

“Oh, he’s the man from the Pru boy” she said proudly “I put some money away every week in savings and he comes to collect it”

For my Nan it was simple…

She wanted to save money regularly and habitually with someone she trusted

She wasn’t overly concerned about suitability, or commission, or detailed disclosure….all she wanted (for fear of repeating myself) is…

She wanted to save money regularly and habitually with someone she trusted

Which brings me back to the present day….

Today I’m ‘contributing my opinion’ to the Financial Advice Market Review.

The problem I’ve got is that when I look at the future of financial advice, which as part of the review includes a future where we are reaching out to people who are today part of the ‘advice gap’ (whatever that means) I can’t help but think about my Nan.

You see my Nan if she was saving today wouldn’t be able to afford the fees of a financial planner.

Let’s be clear. I’m not advocating a move towards the past.

We’ve made and continue to make great strides to a profession I’m proud to be a part of. The challenge is continuing those strides but make ‘advice’ (in whatever form it comes) more accessible.

I’m also not suggesting that the old ‘industrial branch’ model is even close to commercially feasible or appropriate in this day and age.

All I’m saying if it could take some time to understand the bits which made advice accessible to people like my Nan this might help us build and develop propositions for a more accessible advice market in the future.

For me this means focusing on three things…

Habit

For my Nan savings was habitual. She knew that the insurance man was going to come along every Tuesday and understood she needed to have the money ready to give him.

We’ve all got habits, some good and some bad. Habits also come and go (consider the fact that the ‘habit’ of regularly checking social media didn’t exist a few short years ago).

However we need to look at how we encourage ways to bring back the ‘habit’ of saving regularly.

For me there are two main contributory factors….

  1. The increasing power of technology to create habits (think social media, self improvement products like ‘FitBit’ or games on your mobile)
  2. The fact that in a few short years, if automatic enrolment works as planned, most employees will be saving regularly and habitually through their workplace.

Trust

My Nan trusted that her insurance man had her best interests at heart. Now I’m sure that the products they sold back in the industrial branch days were relatively highly charged when compared to today and my Nan could have done better elsewhere however my Nan relied on him to help her save.

It could be argued that whilst every financial adviser or planners clients feel that their particular adviser is great financial services as a whole has a trust issue with people like my Nan.

Reinstating trust in financial services is a big challenge but something we must thing about when considering the future of financial advice.

Simplicity

For my Nan it was simple. A man turns up at your house. You give him some cash and for that you get a promise that in a few years it’ll build to a relatively significant sum.

My Nan might have been given loads of paperwork at the time but I’m pretty sure this went in a concertina file never to be seen again.

Therefore it’s important that when it comes to thinking about building and designing solutions to close the ‘advice gap’ we need to do this with simplicity in mind.

This means making sure people like my Nan have all the information they need but in a format which can be digested easily

This means instead of bulky reports we provide smarter ways to explain information and keep the clients we want to engage who are currently in the advice gap up to date.

I reckon Technology plays a big part in enabling this simplicity but it will take someone to design a user friendly engaging interface as long as the interface was also habit forming and trustworthy….not the easiest task in the world I admit!

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My Nan’s policies matured many years ago and she gave most of the money she’d saved to her children and grandchildren whilst spending very little on herself…that was just the way my Nan was!

One thing we shouldn’t forget is that the old model allowed people like my Nan to save over the longer term in a way which is lost currently.

If I could bring one thing back from the past it wouldn’t be any of the old financial services models. However we have got the opportunity to learn from these old models and think about how they managed to engage more people that we do now…

So I wouldn’t bring back any of the old financial services models. However there is a bunch of stuff I’d bring back.

Firmly near the top of the list…

My Nans Omelettes.

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2 thoughts on “Why more accessible advice reminds me of my Nan’s omelettes…

  • Reminds me of bread pudding Chris, especially the corner pieces. You see, the guy who collected from my parents, generally turned up on bread pudding making days – my mom would bake it for the café she ran – and she’d usually give him a corner piece ( my favourite ) to take away with him.

    A costly way to save, with lost profit on the “pud” 🙂 and high charges, but it offered a convenient way for them to save, was habitual and they trusted the guy.

    Replacing all of that, in a cost effective way, as you say is challenging

    Reply
    • mmmm…..Bread Pudding! I haven’t had a good piece of Bread Pudding in ages!

      Agree that the convenience and habit of having someone turn up regularly meant that often the customer paid through the nose often unfairly. However would they have saved that money in the first place if the man wasn’t there to collect the premiums? erm, I’m not sure.

      We’ve not seen it yet but perhaps technology plays a significant part in building these habits so that there is a balance between habit and not costing the earth to save…..what do you think?

      Reply

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