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Holly's Blog: What engenders trust?

11 Oct, 2019

Busy week at Boring HQ as we held our annual conference for the financial services industry on Tuesday. The focus was all on how to make things better for customers.

One of our speakers was Nathalie Nahai, psychologist and author of Webs of Influence, who talked about the science underpinning websites. She pointed to Barack Obama’s campaign donation page. 4 easy steps. $ donation amounts in simple buttons. And a picture of Barack addressing a crowd (human faces/popular) with his side open and exposed to the camera, with no intervening jacket. This exposed flank apparently suggests openness and trust. Who knew a picture could work so hard!?

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Above: Obama's original donation page, compared to his vastly improved second go.

Nahai also gave good examples of online transparency, looking at fee disclosure as one example. Transferwise was called out for praise, breaking costs down for those who want the detail, but not overwhelming those who don’t. This disclosure of charges frankly remains pretty hopeless in financial services today and is a major bugbear of mine (and I know of yours!)

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Above: Transferwise is open about not always being the cheapest. Its justification is very endearing.

What does financial advice from “The Big Boys” cost?

I’m currently looking at the costs of ongoing financial advice and portfolio management. I want to compare the charges of about 10 of the main providers – St James's Place, Tilney, Brewin Dolphin, Quilter and the like. After a week of trying, using public domain information, I have to admit temporary defeat. I had the most bizarre conversation with a Director of one such brand, who kept repeating how transparent they were, as I continued to stumble around their website, attempting to work out whilst on the phone to him what a customer would pay – and getting it wrong or missing things. With 20 years’ relevant experience in financial services under my belt, it took me a 25 minute phone call with him to actually get to the answer. But apparently it’s really transparent...

I continue on my mission to both work this out and to persuade many of these firms to stop hiding behind opaque walls with flimsy excuses. Many of these large advice businesses will do a very good job in supporting people with solid financial advice – but how can they expect people to compute value when they don’t willingly and openly disclose the fees? It’s frankly just a bit cr@p and I think we’re all getting a bit tired of it.

Pension for the self-employed

One interesting breath of fresh air this week. There’s a new digital pension in town aimed at freelancers and the self-employed: Penfold. I met one of their founders a few months ago and really liked his energy and vibe. I increasingly think the personal motivations, behaviours and drivers of company founders are interesting because they drive the attitudes of the employees – the lifeblood of their brands – and trust. (This is evident in the much more established, now listed, platform AJ Bell, still very much steered by the super down-to-earth and hugely likeable Andy Bell.) One of our conference speakers was the former Head of Customer Service at John Lewis, who spoke about brand personality and trust. He shared a quote from their founder:

The better any particular Partnership suits some people, the worse will it suit others. The John Lewis Partnership was meant for people who need not only something to live by but something to live for.

I thought this willingness to accept that you won't please everyone was important. I think the vast majority of large financial brands are so worried about this, and so worried about saying what they DO care about, that they become bland, beige and bereft of purpose or personality. Three dreadful Bs!.

Anyway – back to Penfold. I haven’t had the time to have a proper look around Penfold yet – but on yesterday’s quick squizz there are some really nice touches. Do let me know what you think if any of you go in and have a look. And if any of you would like to share reviews of the online services you use, then we’d love to hear your feedback and experiences via our Best Buys pages. We’ll be adding newbie Freetrade and oldie Legal & General to these pages over the next few weeks too, as we work on expanding our coverage across the market.

A final note – we’re always interested in feedback too. If you feel like sharing an opinion on Trustpilot, it’s all helpful and will either help us spread the word (if it’s good) or improve (if it’s bad).

Over and out for this week. Have a great weekend.

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