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The problem with problems

The protection market is beset by problems. But the problem with problems is how we deal with them.

Financial services businesses start by gathering the views and opinions of other industry people, then move on to customer-focus groups. Finally, employees meet to discuss the findings.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times we try to find the opportunities which sit behind problems, we never truly fulfil the potential that addressing problems should provide.

The clue to where we all go wrong lies in the words of Albert Einstein: “Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which they were created”, nowadays people call that thinking outside of the box.

Most people’s brains are just too experienced in approaching problems in a particular way and so every problem they confront is addressed in the same way. This is not just a problem with our industry, many industries which involve manufacturing and distribution struggle with the same mindset which in turn leads to less differentiation, increasing commoditisation where scale becomes the only real means retailers and manufacturers are left with to unlock profits.

If we break this downward spiral into commoditisation we need a different approach to finding our opportunities, to discover uniqueness and differentiation.

The practical implications of Albert’s advice would be to take our problems, consider them in an entirely different context, take the fresh insights we develop through this process and use them as a platform with which to deal with our own problems.

So what of the problem of advice, its quality, appro-priateness or lack of it, much discussed in the press and at the heart of past and present regulatory reviews. The problem we have, outside of highly monitored, scripted call centres, is that such control and consistency is not available to many traditional sales managers which we know leads to advisers making less sales, less appropriate sales and from there onto compliance issues in the future.

To address the problem let’s take a lateral step into another market which has some parallels with financial advice but is removed from our own industry to have evolved differently, tailoring.

In the past men would walk into a tailor, examine the cloth available and the price per yard and have the tailor, make a suit for them. Today, we have a mass market for suits. Companies make them in all shapes and sizes, customers try on a number of suits in their price range, preferred colours and styles until they find one that fits well enough.

In the future we will all walk semi-naked into a body scanner, our contours will be mapped allowing us to buy clothes which fit perfectly and shop almost anytime for the brands, styles and colours we are looking for within our budgets.

Now I am not going to tell you how this context or perspective has helped my firm attain a fresh and unique insight in the tools we can develop for advisers, for that you will just have to watch this space, in the meantime don’t just take my advice – take Albert’s.

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