Meatspace, Scotland and why I found myself sitting in a Crypt on a Wednesday.

So there I am…

On a Wednesday night. In London. Sitting in a crypt.

Not your typical Wednesday night I grant you (well not for me anyway. What you get up to on a typical Wednesday is entirely your business!) but well worth being there for the Langcat “platforms are dead” conference.

I like the guys at the Lang Cat.

They know their beans but don’t take themselves too seriously.

They are one of the forces in our profession which understand both the need and the benefit to look and take the best ideas from places not traditionally considered ‘proper’ in the stuffy, pompous corners of our profession.


The fact that the ‘Two Marks’ are both Scottish (or as I call it the mother-in-law-land – that’s a good thing in my book!) is a bit of Brucey bonus.

Now whilst I don’t run or work for a conventional platform my interest in attending was two fold.

Firstly the work we’ve done with AE in a Box and the fact that this is now being actively used by hundereds of professional users and the employers who work with them all across the UK has further developed my interest in how scalable technology can tackle and solve pertinent problems


Secondly I’m always trying to pick up new fresh perspectives about how we help more people, using the technology as the enabling force, to help to achieve their goals.

The three speakers were diverse.

There was a historian who now works for the citizens advice bureau highlighting the ‘advice gap’, a fund manager who shares my interest in behavioural economics and shared his insights and then a guy who runs a consultancy business which helps firms build better and more engaging online experiences and experimenting to see what works.

There were some massively useful insights from the speakers ranging from the ‘biases’ we all face which guide our decisions, a discussion around what the ‘advice gap’ actually is and why we like to learn, connect and play (or have fun) when thinking about the  experiences we build for consumers.

After the event I had a chat with a bunch of people about the presentations. The feedback was positive and sparked many a debate.

One of the chats I had was with a bloke who I’ve got bucketloads of time for. He felt he saw the wind of change as regulation changed and the demand for a relationship led traditional approach dwindle over time as new solutions took over.

Another chat was with a lovely fella who I’ve also got a lot of respect for, and had recently launched a robo proposition to compliment his existing advice business.

He told me that his intention was to use it to be able to potentially help clients who approached him but he was unable to service on his consultancy model with a proposition which worked for them, including the children of currently clients, and potentially being able to look after their accumulating wealth as time goes on. However my understanding was that bespoke personal advice was still his core proposition.

My own particular view is slightly different…

I still think that there is and will continue to be a demand for face to face advice with the small percentage of individuals who have the capacity and appetite to pay for a personal and bespoke ongoing service and who continues to values the ‘meatspace’ relationship adviser.

The way we communicate the services we deliver might change and the way we deliver them (more coaching led than ‘product’ led) but the death of the profession is a fallacy.

I also think technology has the opportunity, scope and scale to provide support not just for the few who approach an adviser or find an online d2c investment proposition and ‘invest’ but also to help educate, create goals and understand how to achieve them.

It seems to me that whilst there’s plenty of noise about ‘robo advice’ we’re still very much in the embryonic stages of this particular revolution which is currently still focused on the product (D2C investment platform) as opposed to the purpose (helping people get closer to their financial goals)

It’s tough to say where the next big step forward will come from.

I reckon the next big step (although it’s likely to be in tiny little steps) will be a consumer driven solution which is simple to use, engaging and entertaining but also doesn’t focus on ‘product’ (an ISA on an investment platform) but actually ‘purpose’ (linked to the hopes, aspirations, dreams and goals of people like you and me).

Whilst there are exceptions, traditional players with deep pockets tend to have a culture where often truly fresh innovative ideas get lost in the machine. Small start ups seem tend to have the opposite problem (less cash and resource but quite often great ideas).

I’ve said for a while now that whilst it might be possible that a big existing financial institution or technology player will come in and develop something it’s also possible (and potentially more likely) that two or three fellas sitting in a shared workspace by silicon roundabout develop something far better.

Who knows what the future holds? The only thing I actually know is I don’t know for sure….

However when we start to consider that whatever we build:

  • We need less ‘product’ and more ‘purpose’,
  • We need less ‘individual’ and more ‘social’and
  • We need no ‘boring and prescriptive’ and far more ‘fun and interactive’,

Once we think about the challenge in this way we’ll be in a far better position to build engaging financial technology which genuinely helps.

What do you think?


4 thoughts on “Meatspace, Scotland and why I found myself sitting in a Crypt on a Wednesday.

  • Chris, surely the next big step wil be the one we take to stop referring to an “advice gap” and acknowledge the reality that until the demise of commission no one had ever used these words in our industry.
    Who ever questioned or mentioned their affordability when they were being paid by third party providers ?
    The biggest step will be taken when advisers accept the challenge of demonstrating their worth in people’s financial arrangements rather than expecting the public to accept the current ludercrous attempt by the adviser community to simply replicate what they were paid by provide s for selling product.
    We have had some years now to rise to the challenge of getting our income from our clients and yet there is a sad lack of initiative coming from the adviser community.
    In your own special field why is the business being given to providers who have never shown interest or competence in dealing with ordinary people. If the public are ever to take ownership of their futures we must use all available methods to make the subject of doing without today to make a better future much more interesting and engaging.
    Doing the same old things in the same old ways just guarantees the same old results.

    • A lot of your comment I agree with Phil!

      In reality the ‘advice gap’ (a phrase which I’ve been guilty of using from time to time) is a term which if you speak to the man in the street they wouldn’t recognise….maybe a change in language is the first step?

      However in a profession where we seem to have constant debates about the validity of a certain phrase (Something again I’ve been guilty of doing with ‘robo-advice’) shouldn’t we focus more of our time, effort and energy in thinking about better ways to help people?

      I absolutely agree that for advisers part of the challenge is ensuring that demonstrate the value and worth of engagement…..You’ve got my full agreement there!

      I’m not sure what you mean about ‘business been given to providers who have never shown interest or competence in dealing with ordinary people’ – if you can elaborate I’ll happily share my thought process but this left me a little confused!

      No worries….I’m sure you’ll clarify so I can answer.

      However your last points are absolutely right. We must use all available methods to ensure that ‘delayed gratification’ seem not only more interesting and engaging but also more appalling….I’m not convinced we’re anywhere close to achieving that yet but as the marketplace evolves I’m confident we’ll get closer.

      and you’re absolutely right….doing the same old things in the same old ways guarantees the same results. So a question….if we all know that why do so many within our profession continue down this road?

      I’m not sure of the answer but I’d be interest to know your thoughts.

      In the meantime have a great Christmas and New Year.

  • Same old things – same old results !

    If anyone has ever been a member of a company pension scheme they will be familiar with the utterly confusing and therefore meaningless communications issued by providers as annual pension statements. It is no wonder that the population is not enamoured with pensions as no one has ever made the slightest effort to make the topic either interesting or understandable to the very people whose futures are involved with pensions. Historically providers addressed the employer on the assumption that they had control of the money and decisions involving the money. Scheme members were treated as disposable and patronised beyond belief in communications.

    Providers in general terms are very removed from the people they were supposed to serve and there is no evidence that anything will change anytime soon.

    We need to harness existing technology to make providing for the future by doing without today an interesting and understandable process. We can already deliver an online ongoing picture of an individual pension and transparently create ownership in the members mind whilst at the same time giving real value to the cost of employee benefits to the employer.

    The oft quoted early success of pensions in Australia was based on Master Trusts or Wraps as we now know them which worked in favour of the member. Confidence in saving was created and has flourished for many years despite the odd setback.

    Using stone age provider thinking and methodology will achieve very little here under auto enrollement but we do have the means to do a better and more effective job if we choose.

    Best wishes to you and yours everyone.

  • Bit more Chris as I didn’t answer some other points you made . I presume you don’t agree with my thoughts that any advice gap – real or imaginary only came about after commission was removed. If demonstrating value in advice is only part of our job then what else apart from delivering that value do we need to do ? If we don’t spend more time on working out how to deliver value then who else will ? If we are still doing the same old things then how will the market evolve ?
    Profession is not a word I would use in our industry as again I believe it has only come into use following the demise of commission as an attempt to justify its replacement by ludicrously high charges. If I could find use of the words advice gap or profession in the era when we were paid commission for selling product then I might be persuaded of their relevance but until then.


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