Communication, engagement, and the Consumer ‘line of’ Duty

Consumer Duty
5m read
Jan 2022
Ian Beestin

Money Alive’s Co-founder, Ian Beestin, explains how advice and wealth firms can use technology to offer better communications to clients and prospects.

Speaking on the Today Programme recently, the FCA’s director of consumer and retail policy Nisha Arora said it will be firm’s responsibility, under the Consumer Duty, to give customers ‘information that’s not just clear and fair, but information they can really understand and act on and make proper decisions’.

The much-overlooked starting point to achieving this vision is getting people to engage with the information you want them to. Without engagement our communications are like the apocryphal tree in a forest that falls over when no one is there - nobody hears them. The key to achieving engagement is to make the target of your comms think it is worthwhile to give up whatever else they are doing to engage with what you have sent them. With so many distractions in the world (my guilty pleasure for example is Twitter) this is a tall order. There are nearly 90 million phone subscriptions in the UK (more than the population). With all that competition for attention no wonder it is difficult to make your tree heard.

Engagement is challenge number one, so let me offer some solutions. Use the technology people have in their hands as your communication medium and make your invitation to engage compelling. Take time to work on your hook.  

Imagine you’re making a record and you’ve got just 20 seconds to get someone to like it before they scroll onto the next one. If your hook isn’t good enough, all the work you put in thereafter is wasted and Arora’s hopes are dashed. Think ‘if I were to get this would I engage?’ If the answer is no, think again. How about testing it on friends, family, and colleagues? We all have our own biases and getting third-party feedback is a good way to challenge our thinking. Online survey tools make it easy to get completely impartial feedback on words and lines that work and could be considered for important messaging.

Once you have your hook, video is an excellent way of bringing communications to life and maintaining interest. If you ever hear me say ‘50,000 people buy the novel Pride and Prejudice in the UK every year but 11 million people watched it on the BBC, ergo people like watching stuff,’ you can shoot me! [Editor’s note: Ian says this frequently].

Throw in a bespoke video platform that measures and reports a viewer’s engagement as they consume a communication, and the Consumer Duty is looking even more achievable. Spice that up with impartial content, focused on enabling the viewer to make a better-informed decision and we’re cooking with gas*.  

One of the points that really resonated was when Arora said, ‘act on’. Communications need not be a compliance driven epic of jargon and waffle. We should welcome the Consumer Duty as both a recognition of this problem and a genuine attempt to address it. Combining video with a video engagement platform makes ‘act on’ easy. You can build ‘next steps’ into a seamless user experience. For example, following a communication about retirement income you can offer options such as make an adviser appointment via a Calendly link, complete a fact find, or go to the Pension Wise website for more information.  

Technology can also help vulnerable customers and those with accessibility needs. I was stunned (in a good way) when I first learned about the accessibility features my iPhone has that make it easier for people with disabilities to engage with information. Understanding these features can help inform an effective communication process and make your information as widely available and valuable as possible. If you’d like to know more about accessibility and tech I can recommend following @MollyWattTalks on Twitter.

I recently had the opportunity to present some communication ideas to Guy Opperman at Citywire and have subsequently met some of his team at the Department for Work and Pensions and the Money and Pensions Service too. I think there is genuine passion for making improvements in how people engage with, for example, their pension and it comes from the top. As well as his pension’s brief Opperman is also Minister for Inclusion which also tells you something about his priorities.

Finally, a number of firms are looking at the Consumer Duty and estimating the cost of implementation at up to £2.4bn. However great the figure is, using existing solutions will help keep it down. Tech and well-judged outsourcing will undoubtedly help keep a lid on the costs.  

In summary, the Consumer Duty represents a real challenge, but if you present comms with good hooks, use an engaging and measurable medium, remember the lessons from Pride and Prejudice (put that gun down) don’t forget the ‘act on’, and we’ll all soon be sucking on diesel*.

*More environmentally friendly cliches are available.

This article first appeared in Citywire Wealthtech on Jan 7, 2022.

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