Finance News

Following the herd: If it’s working for them, why can’t it work for me?

14th March 2018
"Perhaps we should all ask the question in such circumstances about where this info comes from and what motivation the other person has in telling you. "

Sometimes there’s a very good reason for ‘following the herd’ – as David Brent once opined in The Office, “a good idea is a good idea... forever”; until it’s not of course and history is littered with good ideas which turned out to be less than the sum of their parts. Indeed, financial services has had more than its fair share of ‘good ideas’ which at some point later were shown to be less than ideal – endowment mortgages, heavy adverse mortgages, PPI, being just a few.

Human nature is incredibly complex of course and I’m constantly amazed at what people are willing to do in order to secure success, or sometimes just to save their own skin. If you have access to Netflix then I would heartily recommend Derren Brown’s latest show, The Push. It is all about social acceptance, human susceptibility and what we might be willing to do in their name – it might seem rather sensationalised but it is a real insight into why people might do the things they do, particularly when in groups, and how this type of behaviour might be utterly alien to everything they have been brought up to do and how they’ve lived their lives in the past.

Being a mortgage or financial adviser might seem a singular type of job; even if you are active within a large company, with many colleagues, there is a part of it that can seem very insular. You see/talk to the client, you work with them to determine their needs, you conduct the research and sourcing, you make the recommendation – now this might be within set parameters but there is a great onus on the individual in our sector. Indeed, there are a large number of one-man/woman bands in our sector with perhaps more individuals ‘working for themselves’ than in many other markets.

However, at the same time, there does seem to be a sense of community amongst advisers – just attend a conference or seminar, or log into a forum and there is a willingness to share experiences, best practice, and all other types of information that might help others. And, yes, there can also be a mentality which is suggestible – ‘If it’s working for them, why can’t it work for me?’ even if all the proof you have is someone on a message board telling you how great a product or service is. Perhaps we should all ask the question in such circumstances about where this info comes from and what motivation the other person has in telling you.

Technology is one area where advisers (indeed everyone) crave information and references on what works and what doesn’t. Conversely, and somewhat ironically, it’s also an area where advisers can be loathe to change their ways, simply because they’ve always used a particular system or service and they are concerned about the change that is required, the learning that will be needed, and the results that it may or may not deliver.

It reminds me of consumers with other financial products – although this has changed in recent years, how many people for instance stick with their existing bank for years and years despite being incredibly disappointed with the service they receive? Indeed, banks are dependent on people staying put; even when you can change current account now within seven days, many people think the hassle is too much and decide that it’s better than devil they know, than the devil they don’t. That inertia can be incredibly profitable for large financial institutions, and any other customer-facing organisation – why else would existing customers be offered worse terms than new ones?

Moving back to advisers and technology, there are a few points to understand. Firstly, if you’re happy with your tech, then you’re half-way there. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other options out there that won’t work better for you, but at least you are coming to any potential change from a positive place. Secondly, do ask for recommendations and referrals but always treat them with a healthy scepticism – don’t blindly assume that just because someone else is using it, it’s going to be good for you.

Thirdly, try before you buy. This is incredibly important – until you work through a system or software, or any tech, you’re not going to know if it’s right for you and if it works for your business. It may be revolutionary; it may be worse than what you use now – until you try, you’ll never know. Just because everyone else is using it, doesn’t mean it’s going to be the right fit – we are lucky in this market in that there are (generally) lots of alternatives. If you are looking for a change, some research, due diligence and a practical test can be achieved in very little time.

There are always options but they are going to need you, the adviser, to work through them. Unless you’re told you have to use it, then make sure it’s genuinely what you want from your tech and that it can be integrated without much fuss into your business. Market-dominant tech exists for a reason but that doesn’t mean you always have to follow the herd.

Related articles
More from Finance News