I've written about the three big themes driving consumer behaviour over at goodreturns, here is the link:
Investment advice businesses appear to have been experimenting with different structures to manage, mitigate, or eliminate conflicts of interest for some time. See story below. I have heard of a few in the insurance sector - usually people offering options rather than an entire change of business model - but they are rare. Models that I have see offered: true nil commission options with a fee for placement, another Advice for fee and no offer of placement, another fee and commission refund (varying terms), and others simply presented hourly paid options. We have not yet seen these coupled with environmental, social, or governance goals explicitly as in the case below, although often proprietors are concerned about those issues, they are not wired in to the business. Perhaps that's an opportunity.
Donna Nicolof, who was the former head of BNZ's Private Bank has established Pāua Wealth Management. Donna has stated that the firm is determined to eliminate any conflicts of interest and remain independent. When analysing and making decisions, investment managers will be required to consider different external factors including environmental, social, and governance factors.
"Pāua Wealth Management has created a business model to support the independence and integrity of its advice and remove potential conflicts of interest, Nicolof says. She has said no to product commissions or referral fees in favour of a fees-for service approach.
“We believe New Zealand investors deserve truly independent advice and the better outcomes this delivers. We only receive fees agreed to by clients so they can be confident that we act only in their best interests,” she said.
“We do not manufacture investment products and our advisers are not incentivised to sell particular products or trade on clients’ portfolios, which can create conflicts of interest. We are motivated by delivering quality advice and superior service,” she said.” Click here to read more
In other news:
Sorted has had a big spike in traffic. Reported in Goodreturns, the focus in that article is on the demand for advice. That is true. The nature of the traffic also highlight the grim economic news: the most-used areas of the site were the mortgage calculator and the budget planner. But to return to the subject of advice, more than ever an holistic approach to financial advice is probably in demand now. We could do with a lot more capacity in this area - which currently is limited to AFAs. If you are an RFA, with relevant competence to offer financial planning, I suggest getting your transitional licence for the new regime and formalising your offer. It is needed.
In other news:
Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand’s report has found that New Zealanders are more likely to seek financial advice from family and friends at informal gatherings. People reported that their friends and family were the most trustworthy source, followed by accountants. The good news for financial advisers is that as people get older, they understand the value and importance of professional financial advice. Click here to read more
Financial services is a complicated sector, and many simple things are trickier, on closer inspection, than they first appear. Novice consumer advocates are often surprised to find that short-form insurance costs more than fully underwritten cover. Consumers astonished to find that much 'direct' insurance is more expensive than the stuff where commission is paid. Others are amazed that the industry is allowed to discriminate - just the kind that we call it underwriting, enabling us to price different risks appropriately.
I could go on and on.
I try to remember that I won't know everything relevant, that my one insight into a problem might be a useful starting point, but is unlikely to capture everything about a situation - because it's complicated. A value chain rarely responds exactly as we expect.
(Prompted by the articles on commission and the rise in the number of articles which proffer advisers as 'the solution' - whether it is the low interest rate environment, the large number of people without a Will, or even, just without insurance.)
Although 4 times is usually taken as an industry standard, not all “4 x” are equal. The difference can be accredited to things like:
- Cash now with mechanism for claw back issues
- Documentation - especially of privacy and scope of service issues
- Age of clients
- Problems of enforcement affecting deal structure
- Cash and shares mix
Other factors that affect the multiple of renewals include:
- X factors - such as brand, referral deals, and technology
- Bargain basement factors - such as a poor reputation, location, or form of lock-in to an unpopular product provider
- Age and type
- The product mix
Increasingly, issues that relate to compliance under the new regime are being named, but these appear premature, as no-one is yet in the market to buy a Financial Advice Provider.
We record, source, comment on books, persistency, size of renewals, comment on transactions – and have dozens from the last two years to generate a range of multiples. If interested, feel free to email your interest to Jerusalem.Hibru@chatswood.co.nz
There is a concern among regulators that robo advisers do not make their selection process clear to customers - so algorithmic advice may be biased, especially in those cases where there is a choice of product providers. There are several ways such sites can lead clients to believe that their choice is perhaps wider and the process fairer than it might be. One is simply the way the starting set of companies is selected - if you have a mid-market product and you want to favour that one then it is easy to only select products that are in some obvious way 'worse' - say more expensive or offering less cover. The manner in which you apply selection criteria can affect outcomes too. If you apply selection criteria in a series of 'rounds' where you eliminate products you can imagine that if you knock out, say, all the products that are more expensive first, then in the second round you may find it easy to win on a coverage criteria. Even considering criteria in a balanced scorecard can be gamed in some ways - such as the weighting applied to each factor. That is why the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK is interested in how robo-advice works, and in particular how they meet requirements to check suitability, but also other advice safety issues.
It is not just bias in sales that concerns us - it also happens in underwriting and probably in claims. Humans are prone to bias in favour of groups to which they belong, and by implication against the others. That can reinforce existing societal prejudices and make life harder - more expensive policies and more declined claims - for minorities. Is there hope? This article from Daniel Schreiber, CEO & Co-founder at Lemonade explains how he thinks an AI we may never understand can eliminate discrimination and bias in insurance. Of course, I note that he isn't talking about bias in insurer selection - Lemonade is a single insurer offer, not a marketplace.
Rupert Carlyon, Kōura founder has said since going live, they have given advice to 3,000 people through the company’s digital advice platform. They are looking to roll out new messaging to improve user experience and understanding of their products. Click here to read more
The internet is a great platform for data-rich financial services. Since its earliest days financial services (led by sharetrading) have been a leader in e-commerce. But there is a catch. It has always been difficult to convert a lot of interest into action. We can easily deliver data, calculators, and content - and still struggle to achieve connection, engagement, and action. This is the overarching problem with digital. It is worth working on, but it is hard.
Westpac in Australia has been fined $9.15 million after Sudhir Sinha, a former Westpac financial planner provided poor financial advice on multiple occasions.
ASIC noted that the Court found Mr Sinha failed to act in the best interests of his clients, provided inappropriate financial advice, and failed to prioritise the interests of his clients, in four sample client files identified by the regulator.
Click here to read more.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is set to ban cold calling for life and consumer credit insurance sales from January 2020. This has change has been justified as addressing poor sales practices that ASIC believes has led to unfair consumer outcomes. This ban will not apply if the marketer provides the person they are calling with personal advice. It is another sign of the shift in conduct expectations that creates an incentive for a financial provider to choose to step into advice provision and the supervisory regime that surrounds it. We may experience similar incentives in this market. Click here to read more