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Phil Wickenden: Retirement market innovation is about more than the product

Baffling how innovation in the pension market is often kept to just the product design when there are far broader opportunities to stand out from the crowd

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Some things simply cannot be explained: why it takes more genes to make a tomato than a human; why the sun’s atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface; why looking at the same thing as someone else in a shop always feels so awkward.

I’d like to toss a fourth example into the mix. I ordered some soup in the work canteen yesterday (which, being a creature of habit, I have been doing happily for the past six months having discovered the wonderfully positive “energy taken to digest: energy given through digestion” ratio… but don’t get me started on that).

Anyway, on this occasion I was told, very specifically, to take care on account of the carrot-and-coriander soup’s hotter-than-usual hotness. “That’s fine, it always is,” I said, nodding indicatively and reassuringly towards the three protective napkins that have formed a more-than-adequate carrying solution for the best part of the year.

“No, I think you’ll need a plate,” said the concerned canteen person. Blimey! How hot can soup get? 

Two minutes later, at my desk, I ate the coldest soup I have eaten in a long, long time. 

Equally baffling is how and why the industry is able to perpetuate mistakes in the hope of so-called quick wins and cost savings, as alluded to in this column last week.

In the retirement market, there exists a glorious opportunity to do things right, and profitably, if you reconnect and innovate from a wider and deeper perspective of where enduring value truly lies. 

There is a lot of frenetic activity across the industry at the moment (I’m sure I was awoken by the collective whirring of actuaries’ overactive minds last night. Either that or the boiler). But as our recent research highlights, there needs to be more to innovation than looking at products alone.

Exploring the weighting of the numerous influences on retirement solution selection (by advisers for their clients), it is clear there is far more at play than product and price. 

While rates and flexibility together accounted for 50 per cent of the decision, other factors such as service and support, financial strength, brand awareness, administration and past experience collectively accounted for the other half. 

And the wealthier the client, the greater the influence of service and support on their decision.

Percentage figures in the graph below represent average weighting of all adviser respondents

Phil

Phil Wickenden is managing director of So Here’s The Plan phil@soherestheplan.co.uk 

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