This week has been a tale of two cities as I’ve watched a rather macho high-value spat play out and also hosted a very different, disruptive exhibition which breaks the ‘City’ mould.
Large financial companies lack trust. They are run by faceless ’bankers’. The Hollywood stereotypes play out in people’s minds as expensive games of one-upmanship are staged. Last week, a proposed tie up between Lloyds` pensions arm (Scottish Widows) and recently merged Standard Life Aberdeen hit the skids. Standard Life and Scottish Widows have been warring Edinburgh-based clans for years. The potential £6 billion deal turned sour following a fight over control – basically Standard Life Aberdeen suggested creating a new standalone company with a shared board, but Lloyds wanted total control.
As the deal collapsed, the Lloyds boss dealt a punishing blow, removing a whopping £109 billion fund management contract from Aberdeen (which last year merged with his arch rival Standard Life). That is a hardcore way to flick the V at someone who has turned from ally to rival.
In their results this Wednesday, Lloyds boss Horta-Osorio came out fighting, laying down bold plans for a digitally-fuelled landgrab and a revamp of their pensions and investments business, designed to gain another 1 million customers by 2020. The banks are (bizarrely) still nominated by most consumers as a place they would go to for investment help, even though ironically enough, past performance suggests to me that (historically at least) they have been the very worst place to look. Banks have a massive future role to play in helping Brits to invest – and indeed accessing this from the same landing page as Online Banking is handy and will be a core competitive advantage. But what a shame that these Lloyds plans are borne from the same macho table thumping, boardroom fighting, and “d1cky waggling” (blame or thank Mrs Mackay Senior for that expression, not me!) that has made the City such an alien place for so many for so long.
Against this backdrop, we hosted our first ever exhibition in London on Wednesday night – Planet Investment. Last December we spent a day with seven creative women from the worlds of advertising, broadcasting and journalism. Reimagining the often alien financial information and presenting it for ‘normal people’. With audio installations, augmented reality features allowing people to scan everyday objects and brands and see their investment creds, an ‘HMRC rep’ taking 80p from people and giving them £1 in return to illustrate pensions tax relief and our version of Tinder for selecting a fund manager (Fundr), this was a playful challenge to the industry to re-think the status quo. Most popular was our patchwork image (seen above) which shows people at a glance what their fund is made up of.
This project was sponsored by Legal & General and investment boss Dame Helena Morrissey opened the exhibition for us. I’m not impressed by title or status but this lady is really rather cool. She runs a huge business, leads the diversity initiative (the 30% Club), has nine kids, has written a book … and the list goes on. [Pause for large inferiority complex moment]. It is people like her who will redefine the world of investing so that ‘normal people’ can engage, gain reason to trust us and tweets I get like the one below become a thing of the past.