Time to tell the Truth? It has been 6 months since we launched Lower My Charges.com and the speed of how things have developed has been amazing.
Many respected journalists interacting with us like Paul Lewis – host of Radio 4 Moneybox – Interviews with Channel 4 on the British Steel Pension scheme crises – accepted by two accelerator funds backed by the Welsh Government which have identified us as a high growth business and the speed our social media has grown.
Someone said the other day how have you done it?
My reply was maybe we are telling the truth about how things really are when it comes to dealing with the Financial Services Industry.
One of my favorite films is Liar Liar – It’s about a lawyer son called Max who wishes his dad (Jim Carey) cannot lie for just one day – Max makes his wish and it comes true which becomes very inconvenient when Jim Carey is representing his client in court the day the wish is granted.
There is a scene in the film when Jim Carey is in court and he cannot lie to defend his client being under this spell where he says “Only the truth will set you free”.
Another year has almost past but things never seem to change when it comes to the Financial Services Industry.
When it comes to keeping customers happy, why are financial services companies still falling short?
Are you happy with the companies that you trust to look after your money? Or do you think there’s serious room for improvement? Modern life has changed the way we interact with most companies: we value those that try to make our lives easier, and we are usually quick to back away from those that don’t.
But the financial services industry seems to be the area where this attitude doesn’t seem to apply.
In September the Financial Services Ombudsman published its annual complaint figures. It’s pretty unpleasant reading. It took 170,000 complaints in the first six months of 2017. These complaints were broadly spread across most types of financial products.
It’s worth noting that complaints only reach the Financial Ombudsman after the provider has tried to resolve the complaint with the customer. The data shows that companies are getting better at resolving customer complaints, but clearly, the relationship that people have with financial services providers has to change. At Lower my Charges.com have identified three problems that reveal where companies need to be better:
Number 1: People don’t trust the financial services companies they deal with
In 2015, research was done when 2,000 adults were asked whether they trusted financial firms to give them the service and support they needed. Just one in five (20%) said they did. Many of us have a confused and contradictory relationship with our financial services providers.
Consumers mistrust the finance industry yet stay with the bank they’ve been with for years, and they appear reluctant to switch and try something new. This is often characterised as an attitude of ‘no point switching, they are all the same anyway’.
People are being let down all across the spectrum. On the one hand, generations of people don’t feel financially literate, while others who do consider themselves knowledgeable about saving and investment have been let down by poor returns and bad customer service.
Number 2: People are struggling to take care of the ‘here and now’
It’s hard to plan for the future when you’re already busy trying to make ends meet. The cost of living is rising and, without help, it can be hard to factor in savings and investments on top of other household bills.
Many people would like to be more knowledgeable about their finances and hopefully save more, but simply don’t know where to begin. And if you already feel bamboozled by financial services, you’re more likely to feel left out, left behind, and unable to afford the financial advice or products that could make your life easier.
Number 3: People know they aren’t doing enough for their future
The majority of people in the UK aren’t saving nearly as early, regularly or as much as they should, which is storing up problems for later in life. It’s easy to read headlines about having to work longer and being forced to retire on a meager pension. But it can be hard to focus on retirement planning when your current financial situation is less than secure.
Regardless of your financial status, anxiety can often lead to doing nothing. We have a younger generation who can’t afford to save, and for whom retirement is too far in the future to rationally consider or plan for. We also have seen greater numbers of wealthier, older people who are worried about losing what they have and anxious about their ability to sustain themselves in old age, but yet who are failing to do anything material about either concern.
What needs to change?
It starts with building trust. But how can you build trust when the Financial Services Industry is constantly not being open and transparent about charges?
We believe Financial services companies must first be open about this and show the effect negative compound interest has on investment returns when charges are taken out of the Pension or Investment product being recommended.
There also needs to be better education and advice on personal finance and money management. We believe customers should never be made to feel like uneducated outsiders. They need to feel empowered to take control of their financial future.
What is Lower My Charges.com doing about this?
We’re determined to improve the relationship that individuals have with their money and that starts by telling the truth on the impact charges have when managing and looking after their money. Lower my Charges.com is determined to make investments that are more transparent when it comes to charges, more accessible, and more human.
We plan to launch some big upgrades in the first quarter of 2018 so keep watching and spread the word.
In the meantime, I wonder what Santa would do if he could lower his charges?
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.