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This week I ran a training course with the inspirational title “Building a Client-focussed Professional Service Firm for the ‘New World’”. Feedback varied from the brilliantly positive to the constructive…

An unbridled success then. Still, it’s got me thinking.

This ‘brave new world’ of ours, post-RDR, hasn’t really had a great deal of impact yet. Oh yes, it has had an effect, but I don’t think we’ve seen the full impact yet. There’s more to come and I expect to see another round of fallout/merger/acquisition towards the end of this year/early 2014 as people discover the truth – what you were doing yesterday just doesn’t cut it any more.

Wealth Management businesses (be they ‘traditional’ or IFA based) need to adapt to thrive (and please take careful note of the use of the word ‘thrive’ as opposed to the more usual ‘survive’).  Darwin said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but  the one  most  responsive to  change.” As if to echo that, Dick Foster (emeritus director of McKinsey & Co) observed that in the world of business, “It’s just a fact … survivors underperform.”

In Wealth Management, it is highly likely that the buying public – clients, if you prefer – will become ever more discerning. As with so many things, competing on cost will not necessarily be the answer – as Rodney Fitch CBE (founder of design company Fitch & Co) said: “Only one company can be the cheapest. All others must use design.”

Design for us will be largely about providing an exemplary service coupled with a high level of professionalism – but watch out. In his book “What’s the Secret to Providing a World-class Customer Experience?” John diJulius reports a survey by  global management consultancy Bain & Company:

Customers describing their service experience as “superior”: 8%

Companies describing  the service experience they provide as  “superior”: 80%

Clearly, to paraphrase, “Perception is in the eye of the end user”.

As I put together material for the course, I came across one Harry Quadracci, the founder of QuadGraphics, an innovative printing company. He and his team ‘invented’ a way to blow advertisement cards into magazines. Here’s the rub: The magazine people didn’t know they wanted such a feature until Harry had invented the process.

The lesson to be learned is that it is NOT the customer or client who drives the ideas – they do not know what they want. It is us, the service providers, who must come up with services, products and innovative methods of delivery that people do not know they want until they’re given them. That is what will allow Wealth Management businesses to thrive.

If you are blessed with vision (like those on my course) then you have every chance of survival. To the rest, if your immediate reaction is “Doesn’t apply to us”, “Won’t work for us”, “Compliance will never allow anything new” or something similar, then think again; think long and hard…

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