FinTech, backlash, proliferation and winnowing. When our team is asked about wealth management trends and what the future may hold, the following ideas keep coming up.
I’ll take two lessons from our own communications research—be brief and be bulleted—and will skip additional preamble. Without restriction on topic or time period, and in order of increasing votes, the predictions: Continue reading
Advisors and investors have been sharing their mutual fund decision-making process and factors with us for years. As a market researcher in financial services, I can tell you that while Morningstar fund ratings don’t always make it to the top of the stated list immediately, they are regularly referenced, and advisors note that the ratings are a rare data point that seems to resonate with clients. The ratings also often capture attention when marketing material is tested. This is especially true when the material is for a brand not already at the top of an individual’s consideration set. And, for every time an advisor admits that the ratings have some impact, there are other times when the impact is understated or even unknown to the advisor.
I was recently looking back at responses from an old post-event survey administered by an asset manager, and I was struck by one recurring comment from attendees. The sponsor company had gone to great lengths to make this a value-add event, not a sales event. There was no talk of product and barely any talk of the company itself. The speakers were accomplished and noteworthy academics, the location was on neutral territory, and the topics were brand-agnostic. The result? Continue reading
In an entirely unscientific study, I talked to 31 people on the street Jimmy Kimmel-style to find out what “the people” think about the term “fiduciary” and the DOL’s fiduciary rule. These conversations happened in the financial district of a major metropolitan area. I made an effort to get a range of demographic profiles, though admittedly I may be overrepresenting people who are willing to be a captive audience while waiting for lunch at a food truck. What I learned was a good reminder of how quickly news travels from the industry to the consumer (hint: not quickly). It also reiterates the opportunity for asset managers to leverage the rule-driven structural changes that are already in place or in process, even if those changes may not ultimately be necessary. Keep reading to find out more and see a brief video of three investors describing what it means to be a fiduciary in their own words.
Tallying quantities of topic mentions in daily financial news feeds can reflect what’s on the minds of investors and industry professionals.
- Exhibit A: regular coverage of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule.
- Exhibit B: regular coverage of robo-advisors.
- Exhibit C supports the theory in reverse: little news and, likely, little mindshare, though it deserves more attention. There is a fundamental change taking place in the way investment products are assessed, which is evolving the product ecosystem as well as how financial services market research firms explore those products.
I was recently explaining the idea of an in-home interview to my husband. “You would never let someone into the house!” he replied, knowing that I would be skeptical, at best, if invited to participate in one. However, I would agree to participate in this type of immersive research. Even though I am unabashedly, undeniably and thoroughly biased, I believe that helps me understand why some of the busiest professionals working in some of the most sensitive and regulated industries agree to do the same.
Yes, financial advisors are busy. Yes, doctors have to be careful about what they say and share. Yet both are willing to meet with us at their offices and talk for rather lengthy periods of time. There are certain industries—financial services and healthcare being two prominent examples—where compliance concerns, traditional thinking and precedent can falsely limit the qualitative method possibilities.
I hadn’t paid much attention to John Oliver until he lambasted US retirement plans in a clip that spoke directly to my clients and me with its relevance, comedy and mix of truths, half-truths and misperceptions. This led me to pay attention more quickly when my Facebook feed promoted a new Oliver piece about the Republican National Convention and the idea that feelings can…ahem…trump facts. I encourage you to have a listen (particularly at the 3:13 and 5:56 minute marks), though now is a good time to caution that there is foul language. It’s also important to note that the opinions shared in this video do not represent those of Market Strategies, though perhaps not only for the obvious reason that we do not support a political party or any opinions for or against Antonio Sabato Jr.
Four tips for communicating clearly with investors
I started writing school papers in the third grade. By the time I reached my senior year in high school, I had become a pro at stretching 100 words of substance into elaborately-worded essays to meet the 750-word minimum assignment. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college—when my philosophy professor forced us to write about hefty “meaning of life” subjects in no more than one, single-spaced, 10-point font page—that I started focusing on writing clearly and succinctly.
This same writing baggage hinders some communicators in the financial services industry, in particular those speaking to end investors. Innovation can be a tricky goal, especially as it applies to financial product development; however, being innovative with your communication can lead to refreshingly clear and understandable language.
It is the glory month for people like me: Type A, perfectionist and other less-appealing descriptors. I will exercise more. I will eat better. I will perfect things that I thought I might have perfected last year, only to realize more perfection was possible. My tendencies don’t drop away completely after January, but fortunately the fire isn’t always fanned by countless articles emphasizing ways to do better. Unfortunately, not everyone has this reprieve after January, and a recent experience reminded me of the goal-setting perspective I aspire to this year.
It took two conversations with caregivers of terminal brain cancer patients for me to learn years ago that I wasn’t built for some healthcare research and that I admire those who do that good work. Happily, I’ve found my groove in financial services research. Although my days are not filled researching life-saving treatments in the literal sense, painful and heartfelt comments from older investors about not being prepared for retirement is just one of the ways finances are intimately tied to the very real human experiences of worry, joy, health and livelihood.
In the financial services world, whether you label your target audience “customer,” “investor,” “advisor,” “portfolio manager” or something else, they are all living in a world where it’s no longer impossible for the sixth largest bank in the US to collapse and for the DJIA to swing over 1,000 points in a single day. There is an ever-expanding list of responsibilities—from following new regulations to learning about new products—but not an expanding day. Some investors have lowered their retirement standards all the way to “not eating cat food.” News stories these days are more hopeful than a few years ago but offer regular doses of caution. It is not uncommon for a participant to enter a focus group room wearing her worry, with hunched shoulders and deep creases.
As researchers, we value what we learn from these participants and, in return, we owe them a respectful research experience that makes them feel heard and appreciated. Aside from common courtesy, every industry comes with its own participant sensitivities—understanding these is the path toward more respectful research, especially in the qualitative space. Consider these five tips as you conduct financial services research to ensure you are creating healthy interactions that help you, them and the market research industry as a whole.