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Kim North: There are better ways to build online guidance


The boys watch the girls, while the girls watch the boys, who watch the girls go by… sang Andy Williams. As we watch people, more and more are wearing business or work clothes resulting from 345,000 more people in employment in the three months to the end of April. 

As we approach the all-time record for the largest percentage of British people in work, this means there will be a greater demand for personalised financial advice and more pension plans will be set up than ever before due to an increasing population and auto-enrolment.  

The industry debate continues as to who and what should provide financial guidance and advice to meet this rising demand.          

FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley, speaking at a recent conference on the future of financial services, said the regulator was keen to fast-track technological innovation in the advice space to service the “the middle market”.

An FCA consultation paper, due next month, should explore areas such as how technology can help achieve more direct interaction for consumers with products and services, how customised offerings can be delivered, what efficiencies will be made by providing advice online, the quality of information that can be provided and whether moving online increases convenience for consumers?

I am a big fan of online provision of services and products. I cannot remember the last time I went shopping in actual shops and  I advocate moving financial advice online. But who will pay for the development and ongoing costs?

With the media being such active self-promoters, I was surprised to read the findings of a survey conducted by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. 

At Oxford University, from a poll of 19,000 people, only one in 10 internet users was happy to pay for news online – unchanged from 2012. If we will not pay for online news, neither will we pay for online financial advice.

Nest issued a paper last week saying independent third parties should provide advice to pension savers, which I agree with.

There are better ways than Nest suggests to offer financial advice and guidance, such as tools and calculators to help consumers put together their financial outlines, backed by an adviser – on the phone or using Skype.

I want the likes of the Personal Finance Society, Apfa, Unbiased and the Institute of Financial Planning to come together and build an online front-end system that guides consumers with tools and calculators, then perhaps points to contact details of an appropriate adviser who is skilled in the area for the client’s needs. The time of the adviser would then be paid for by a product provider levy. Most providers will sigh with relief that they do not have to provide advice. 

Kim North ( is managing director at Technology and Technical



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