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Sales Process - thinking now dominated by six steps and Code, will need an overhaul

If you have been a tourist in England at any time over the last sixty years you will notice that there is a particularly rushed nastiness about structures thrown up during the second world war. While fewer and fewer of these remain they are a reminder that dominating necessity brooked no frivolity - there was no money or time to make any of these attractive, survival was the issue.

Many financial services sales processes are going to have the slab-sided, rushed concrete job, look of those structures as we progress through the year. I am not making a frivolous call for aesthetically pleasing sales processes: it's just that, while 'functional' from a legal and compliance perspective, they may lack functionality in other areas. Like making more sales. Or costing less moeny to run. Post Financial Advisers Act, version one sales process is all about keeping people out of jail. The problem is that they will also keep a fair few prospects out of becoming clients, and they will not represent the ideal elegant efficiency that might see a company leap ahead of its competitors.

While some sales people will definitely see a lift through the application of a more rigorous sales process, lengthy forms in and of themselves never generated much in the way of additional income. Everyone has heard us all say how much we support the new environment, so we can now save those announcements from further wear and tear. Besides, press releases on the subject are becoming rarer - today compliance with it is merely a required fact.The truth is that we innovate in private, preferring not to announce our best ideas to competitors - we would all rather that they just noticed as our sales climb.

So congratulations on having a compliant sales process (if you have one). Now the real work must begin, again.

Now is the time to move beyond mere compliance to addressing the efficiency requirements of the product provider and the confidence requirements of the consumer. Consumers need better process as much as we all do - unless anyone wants to make a case that consumers needs are completely addressed by what passes for financial advice right now.

Online Banking Effect - minus two cups of coffee

Twenty minutes ago my wife looked at me lovingly and said - you look like I should make you a cup of coffee. Foolishly, rather than capitalise on this moment of wholly undeserved sympathy, I said we should finish what we were doing first. We were pulling together some financial information as part of our start of the year planning process (we want to go to the UK and France this year, and with five of us, that's expensive).

Twenty minutes later, trying to use two online banking systems and one online sharetrading system. Fran is grumpy and I said, I think I'd better make you a cup of coffee.

Conclusion: the online banking effect is roughly minus two cups of coffee. It's still a hell of a lot quicker than a trip to the bank, but not without frustrations.

Insuring Natural Disasters - the lessons to learn, and not to learn

In reaction to suggestions that a levy is made on people that insure themselves to construct an additional pool of funds for 'super disasters' like the recent floods in Australia is rightly getting a bit of a serve from the industry. The key comment was:

“Imposing additional taxes in the form of levies on policyholders, as is proposed, is not the way to encourage consumers to take out adequate insurance.”

Just to explain that, it's like the mandates that so many states in the US add on to healthcare insurance. In the name of helping those that aren't insured they slap mandates onto those that do get insurance. This has a couple of effects: a) it makes it less likely that someone on the edge of purchasing cover will do so, because it makes 'free cover' (to them) available. b) making the standard cover more expensive pushes it beyond the reach of some consumers who were buying it. Over time these forces can spiral, leading to fewer insured paying more and more and more.

General insurance for homes is cheap, people should just buy it.

From our own Christchurch earthquake, another multi-billion dollar disaster, we have learned also the value of business interruption insurance. In fact, while many businesses had the minimum cover - just 6 months - many have learned that they really needed to have 12 months cover.