Simplicity REQUIRES Sophistication
Best Practice Advice & Compliance & Sales & Marketing for Professional Services

Simplicity REQUIRES Sophistication

November 7, 2012

by Tony Vidler

One of the most popular articles I have written was a short piece on the necessity for reducing Statements of Advice in size.

It seems the message to reduce the complexity – to stop producing documents for a courtroom rather than a client – hit a collective nerve.

In an increasingly risky and litigious world there is a tendency for financial institutions and those providing support services to financial services to head towards complexity.  Not surprisingly, those providing advice to advisers generally want to protect themselves first….so overly legalistic documentation gets delivered to advisers as a framework for them to use with clients.

The advisers then often feel the need to ensure they are protecting themselves…and another layer of complexity is added to the mix.

Throw in the opinions of professional associations, commercial industry bodies, consultants, services providers to financial advisers….and that kayak you thought you were building is beginning to look a lot like an ark – and you are now housing the opinions of just as many other creatures that the original Ark housed.
Financial advisers – and those who say they care about the success of financial advisers businesses – need to step back and re-asess what is rapidly becoming a ridiculous situation.  Let’s begin with the end in mind….

The end point of the process is quite simply the consumer. Or more specifically, it is a consumer who has just been given useful and practical advice that will help them improve their financial position in life.  What does the typical time-poor, harassed, stressed, confused consumer want?  Advice they can understand quickly, and use relatively easily to make a positive difference in their life.

What does the financial services sector generally give them?

….a lot of verbiage.

The financial services sector is not alone in this respect of course, and it is ever so tempting to recount the most frustrating experience I have had recently of trying to work with some “experts”…months lost; tempters lost on both sides; MY money wasted….all because (in my view as a customer) these “experts” were so enraptured with their own cleverness and love of their jargon that they kept forgetting to listen to what I as a customer wanted, and didn’t frankly care all that much that I didn’t understand their clever geek language.

I know what I want and I am happy to pay for it.  I just don’t necessarily know how best to achieve what I want…which is why I brought in the experts…..I am NOT happy when they begin to waste my time and money by giving me screeds of meaningless guff and leave more confused than when I started.

I would venture to suggest that for too many consumers this is precisely their own experience of using financial advisers in the regulated world.

The objective of any written advice should be to provide clarity- not confusion.

Expert advice should provide solutions – not frustrations.

Statements of Advice should demonstrate that the adviser is a technically competent master of their field – by providing simple and effective recommendations.

A great Statement of Advice should do all of this, and also instil belief and confidence in the consumer that their situation and requirements are well understood.  There must be a practical outcome that the consumer can understand and implement.

To achieve these difficult objectives in a simple Statement of Advice requires sophistication and mastery on the part of the financial adviser.

It is all too easy to produce complex reports with whizz-bang pie charts and colorful graphs…and to kid ourselves that by providing a lot of pages with clever words in a document we are providing something of value.  There is “a value” in doing something this of course…though a marginal value in the eyes of many consumers.

Give them something they can understand – quickly.  Something that gives them hope and a desire to begin a process of changing what they are doing right now.  Something a Coach would provide…not something a Judge might write.

To achieve this level of simplicity in written communication to clients requires sophistication and thought.

I’d be willing to wager though that if there is one business truism you can bet on, it is that more consumers will want to do their business with people who make life easier for them, and who are giving them what they want.
For financial advisers there has never been a better time to go back and re-visit the concept of K.I.S.S. – because that is what the people paying the bills actually want.

The original article can be be viewed on this blog ( “How Low Can You Go?)

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Comments (5)

  • Thank you Tony for expressing so eloquently exactly what I have been saying to fellow advisers and software SoA template providers for years. Maybe one day others will get it too. And then I can find other smart people to help me develop templates that are of consumer use and not BS legal protection use.
    As you well say, it’s for the consumer / clients and they want something easy to read and understand, not a War & Peace novel.

    Adam Passwell
    • Thanks Adam – I really appreciate the feedback. We are not alone you know…regulators largely hold similar views as the purpose of this clear advice is to ASSIST a consumer.

  • An excellent, well considered and important article. Perhaps Bill Shorten will read it?

    Thanks Tony

    Jamie Forster
    • It’s possible! The regulators on this side read it and spoke about it….

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