You can congratulate me if you like: my first book has just been published.
It’s called No Small Change: Why financial services needs a new kind of marketing, which on reflection may not be the snappiest-ever title.
I co-wrote it with my old friend Anthony Thomson. Anthony started his career in the creative agency world as I did, but more recently has gone on to found and chair not one but two challenger banks, first Metro and then Atom.
Given the title, you might expect me to say the book is full of relevant ideas about marketing for advisers and you should all rush out and buy it, but it isn’t really, and you don’t really need to. Most of it is about how the industry needs to evolve – and in particular to evolve its approach to marketing – in a world where more and more financial services are delivered digitally, which of course most advisers’ services aren’t.
One chapter which I think does offer food for thought to advice firms though, is the one about the still emerging science of behavioural economics (BE).
As you'll probably be aware, BE is to do with understanding the irrational, emotional biases which shape people’s financial behaviour. It is then about finding ways to connect with those biases in the way we present and deliver our services to them.
Anthony, my co-author, actually believes the new thinking in this area will have even more profound consequences for financial services than digitisation. I think that’s going a bit far, but then again he’s launched two successful banks and I haven’t, so what do I know.
The biggest and best-known BE case study in UK financial services is of course automatic enrolment, which is based on the finding that people are many times more likely to participate when they’re defaulted in and have to opt out than when they’re defaulted out and have to opt in.
But there are hundreds of other examples of BE in action in financial services. These include the big and serious examples such as Professor Richard Thaler’s pay more tomorrow strategy, where people unwilling to increase their pension contributions overnight are perfectly happy to sign up to an 'escalator' principle that will increase them year after year.
These examples also include the small and peculiar, like the fact people will pay a higher price for an item if they’ve seen, heard or read a very large number – any very large number – in the few minutes before the price is presented to them.
BE is a field with a huge amount to offer the advice world – not just in marketing, where there are many examples of tremendously successful initiatives, but also in the actual delivery of advice.
Some of the lessons to be learnt are pretty challenging too. For example, behavioural scientists offer a tough challenge to the whole concept of attitude to risk, by demonstrating how people have completely different attitudes to risk depending on how they acquired the money. We’re happy to take far more risk with money we won on a horse than money we earned from a weekend’s overtime.
The most readable and entertaining book on the subject is Richard Thaler’s Nudge, with Robert Cialdini’s Pre-suasion a close second. You’ll find them both on Amazon – where you’ll also find that equally readable and entertaining new book by Camp and Thomson.