Chameleons, seizing opportunities and thriving in a post Retail Distribution Review landscape

Chameleons are adept at dealing with change and survive as they can react instantly to a new landscape. They seize an opportunity when other animals are threatened and exposed by change.

A fundamental change is coming to the financial services sector right now. Will you adapt and thrive or will you be a casualty?

We are working with a major UK financial services organisation helping them to prepare for the implementation of the Retail Distribution review (RDR). There are certainly some significant challenges facing people and companies in entering another era of financial planning in the UK. We recently wrote about the challenges of restoring confidence in the value of an advisory service.

Yet along with this there are opportunities that present themselves. The opportunities of RDR are to strengthen your brand and reputation as well as to seize the initiative by adapting more quickly and more effectively to the new landscape than your competitors.

This will be determined by how well you demonstrate that you add value. Those that struggle to justify the cost of gaining professional advice will suffer.

Here, then, are a few cornerstones around which you can build a successful proposition in the new RDR world:

First: emphasise value not cost. You don’t have to be the cheapest but you will need to demonstrate how you add value to your customers to gain an upfront advice fee from a customer unused to paying directly and explicitly for a service they perceived as free and rarely felt the pain of funding. This is particularly true if you’re charging non-contingent fees.

You can easily brainstorm the ways in which your proposition adds value and strongly position these with clients. The value must outweigh the cost in clients’ minds.

Second, create a memorable and positive customer experience. Many companies have proved that people love to be made to feel special. Apple is a great recent case study. They nurture customers who become long-term clients as long-term relationships develop. There are few better advertisements for your business than clients who advocate your professional services.

Yes, you need good products and services at the heart of your proposition – but we ‘re sure you’ve already developed these.

So, what sits at the heart of a powerful customer experience?

  • Connecting with people at an emotional level not just on a logical plane, what do people see, hear and feel when they interact with you?
  • How do they remember you and the conversations you had? Remember the Ebbinghaus effect. Doubtless you question your clients well, develop important conversations, listen and record them well. Hopefully you also demonstrate active listening and summarise frequently, accurately replaying to clients their own words. But how well do you communicate with your clients when you’re not in front of them? How do you stay at the forefront of your clients’ mind and keep alive those conversations you shared?
  • Value the human. People like to like others and to be liked. Humans value genuine interest from others and they tend to respond less well to those who value them only for their assets. How much rapport do you create?
  • Simplicity rather than over-engineered and confusing services can appeal to many. Gilding the lily can backfire. Does everything that you offer and discuss with clients add value and enhance your proposition? Or, does it obfuscate and cause procrastination?

Third, strengthen your reputation and brand. Yes, it’s great to work under the umbrella of a positively regarded brand. It gives people all sorts of logical reasons to trust you.  Of course you’ll maximize the upsides of this. But what is your personal brand?

How do others perceive you? No doubt there will be many positive behaviours you can identify in yourself. Continue to demonstrate these. What positive qualities, you witness in others whom you admire, could you develop? Equally, are there any habits or traits you should make a concerted attempt to eradicate? Self-awareness is a powerful tool in self-development.

Fourth, and finally; make a difference every single time you interact with your clients.  Aim to become a mentor and trusted consultant to your clients. Be someone they value meeting and receiving a call from. It could be due to your professionalism, important information or insightful analysis you offer, value added services your company provides, or many other reasons.

Are you going to be the chameleon in the new RDR world or will you struggle and be marginalised? What are you doing to ensure your actions are appropriate for the challenges of the new era and new financial services landscape?