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.

and

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

and

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?

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