From Boring Money Bulletin August 2017


Angels and Villains

This one’s possibly a bit controversial but this month’s rather lovable villains are tech firms and developers. Here’s why.

Over the last month I have spent a lot of time in Shoreditch working with people who can undoubtedly build funky apps and nice websites. They are engaged by financial services firms to help them build better services for their customers, which usually involves beating them up and telling them how rubbish and boring their current stuff is.  Of course, senior folk in the finance industry are no strangers to masochism. As one consultant whispered to me years ago, “They’re a funny lot. The meaner you are to them, the more you can charge them.”   There’s a general acceptance that the industry makes poor quality content and sites for its end customers. And we all lazily blame compliance. Repeat to fade.

One of the major problems in financial services has been that rooms full of white middle-aged blokes from Sandhurst, Oxford and Rugby, who are engineers or actuaries, have made and talked about products for people who look like them. At least we now recognise that this is problematic. Yet how strange that the solution has been to get rooms full of 20 and 30-somethings, with beards, piercings and metropolitan tastes, who are tech grads or designers, to build and develop products and services for our disengaged customers.

Adults are no different to kids in the school ground. We know who the cool kids are and want to be in their gang. But is our current slavish adherence to the scrum masters, the ideators and the designers simply lurching from one extreme to the other. As middle England sits by and wonders why no-one is yet talking to them in a language which they identify with or understand?

When we run our focus groups and test what consumers like, they tend to pick sites which won’t win any awards for beauty, design or daring. This week I’ve been looking at Fundsmith. Simple. Functional. But bish-bash-bosh three easy steps and then you’re out. Hargreaves Lansdown. Open an account. Open a SIPP. Simple. Directional. To the point. And I can tell that no scrum master has been near those sites!

So tech firms. You’re fun. You’re creative. You’re an important grain of sand in the oyster. But I think you’re biting off more than you can chew.  Language. Communication. Trust. For people like me. That’s more than an app or a piece of code.

Holly Mackay, August 2017