The world is full of people who are very good at a job that was really difficult a while ago. The problem (and opportunity) is that some difficult things keep getting easier to do.
Estate agents have discovered that much of what they do all day is now being done, sorted and presented for free, just as wedding photographers with tons of fancy equipment now compete against the fact that every single guest at the wedding has a camera in their pocket.
That doesn’t mean the game is over, however. What it does mean is that we have to figure out how to obsess over things that are truly difficult – which parts of advice truly can’t (or should not) be disintermediated – and focus on building from here.
But there also remains an opportunity to provide clients who want to do more for themselves with the tools to do so more confidently, efficiently and with your help (or at least facilitated by you).
The current value of the self-directed market and its likely growth mean it must be taken seriously. It’s not a flash in the pan and should not be viewed as merely a distraction from the real business of advice. But, while more people will be looking at DIY channels, they will also need to dip in and out of advice at key life moments.
To really succeed with a D2C proposition, providers need to be able to offer a multi-channel approach, which ties research and execution tools to an ongoing option for advice (minefield though it still, admittedly, is).
So the key question players and would-be players must answer is: how can we better understand changing client behaviour and design solutions around it? Too many providers are looking at D2C propositions as merely a way of stripping out adviser costs and controlling assets, which is as horribly product led as it is predictable.
This misses the point that new consumer dynamics suggests it is likely most individuals will not want or expect to use one or other of either a) a fully advised ‘Do it for me’ approach, or b) a ‘Total DIY’ approach. While it may be convenient for us to put clients in neat boxes, the chances are they will prefer to interact with financial advice in a number of ways at different times.
Providers and advisers may profit from considering the possibility that most clients (if we take into account their needs rather than our preferred segmentation models) could be better defined and served as ‘Do it with me’. So what does that look like?
Phil Wickenden is an independent consultant