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Why advisers’ focus is not on providers’ charges

Some people really like Harry Styles. Some prefer death metal. Others are more ensconced in the dancehall influenced, garage-jungle infusion known, since its first beats started booming their way out of east London council estates, as grime.

Try as Messrs Cowell, Walsh et al might, any record executive attempting to fashion the next best thing by appealing to all three fan bases with some hybrid monstrosity is unlikely to shift many units.

It is tempting to look at music, finance, fashion and come to the conclusion that the recipe for success is to focus group everyone, average it up and make something that pleases the big hump in the middle, while not offending most of the outliers.

Our latest round of adviser research explored, among other things, the decision-making process for wrapper and provider selection. When we asked advisers to rate on a one to five scale how important various factors were when selecting a bond provider, fair and appealing charges averaged the highest with 4.39 out of five.

But if we accept these top-lines at face value we miss the small nuances that are the difference between failure and success. And this shows that, on average, averages tell you very little.

Deeper exploration reveals that there are large clusters of advisers for whom both service and technical support components are significantly more important than charges.

They are not our “average” but for these groups, past experience also has disproportionate impact on the decision-making process. This is borne out when we probe, unprompted, what it is about the providers they use more frequently that they value most.

For the top three rated providers, service and technical support ranked top or second. Charging was spontaneously discussed far less, suggesting it is possibly less influential at the point of decision than often assumed.

Few things are up for a majority-rule vote. Rather, the tail keeps getting longer, and choice begets more choice. As such we do not need to necessarily abandon the “hump” to head to the non-existent middle. Yes, there are true averages (like how high to fix a doorknob) but more often than not, trying to please everyone a little is a great way to please most people not at all.

Phil Wickenden is managing director of Cicero Research

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