The founder of creative agency Thinkerbell has urged financial planners and investment managers to drop the ‘boring old codes’ of financial services and adapt to the new world where authenticity and pro-social endeavours come to the fore.
Speaking on a session to open the Portfolio Construction Forum Finology Summit 2021 Wednesday morning, Adam Ferrier – who co-founded the agency in 2017 – kicked off proceedings by stating that money is sexy, but that appeal isn’t being harnessed by the industry.
“Money is really sexy, so why are your clients so bored when you’re with them?” Ferrier began. “Why does financial planning and financial services make money so batshit boring?”
Financial services professionals are still mired in traditional stereotypes, Ferrier argued, characterised by formal peronal presentation and conspicuous consumption, while the rest of the world is moving towards “casualisation” and gratification through enriching experiences and participating in social causes.
“You see the new codes of wealth starting to emerge with people like the Atlassian brothers and Elon Musk, where they’ve casualised wealth so it’s not as rigid and stiff, and then they try to do pro-social things,” he said.
Using the example of Melanie Perkins, the co-founder of graphic design software behemoth Canva, who recently committed – along with her other co-founders – to give away the majority of their 30 per cent stake in the $55 billion company, Ferrier said the world was becoming “more pro-social, much more humble and more values-based”.
“Spotting the rich per person is getting much harder because the rich person is blending in and no longer trying to signal how wealthy they are,” he continued. “Except for the world of financial services, where the white bloke is still wearing a blue suit, driving an Audi and having golf days…”
While the move from conspicuous to inconspicuous consumption is a thematic that advisers should consider for business purposes, Ferrier reckons there are broader sociotal reasons.
“Do we help our people make more money, or do we help our people create a real world that reflects their values or helps more toward the values that they want to hold there?”
In a Q&A session to close out the talk, an audience member made the point that many of the wealthy clients financial advisers service are more comfortable with the so-called ‘old codes’, particularly when it comes to presentation and appearance. Hoodies and t-shirts might be fine for marketing gurus and start-up CEOs, but casual attire would be less well received in the financial advice sector.
That may be true, Ferrier said, but it’s less true today than it was ten years ago.
“The second thing is, lots of financial decisions are getting made intergenerationally now, and when the family is becoming involved… appealing to the family, not just the not just the old, rich white guy with the money, is really going to become increasingly important.”
He urged the audience to experiment for a week with a ‘casualised’ version of themselves and see how it goes.
“Don’t try to appeal to the customer,” he said. “Listen to who you are and radiate who you are and I think people will come.”