Access to knowledge remains a stumbling block to financial education in this country. It is extremely difficult to convert information on what we own into knowledge about how we can use it.
This is not a problem peculiar to the financial services industry, look at the antiques roadshow to see how how little people understand what they own until the utility of ownership is unlocked by some Arthur Negus.
Where a proper system of valuation is available, as in the residential property market, ownership is meaningful and – for those not on the property ladder- something to aspire to.
Making it real
This process of making things real – tangible – touchable is something that exercises the minds of my friends at Quietroom. Bringing the difficult financial choices that the pension freedoms present, exercised their minds for some weeks. I mad a couple of trips to their offices to help them get inside the subject. Over Easter they sent me the result of their work. Here it is.
For me, this animation makes my choices real, tangible – touchable like the apples. The words and images are focussed on helping me convert abstract ideas into knowledge which I can use to help me and others get these pension freedoms.
Making it happen
But what if the people who have the knowledge press the button and nothing happens? What if those apples stay stuck to the tree, or turn out to be full of worms?
The use of technology to explain how things work is one thing, using it to make things work is another. Speaking with a friend last night who has responsibility for making the money in my bank account move to the right place at the right time, I was surprised at how low his opinion of pension payment systems is.
Thinking about it, he is right. The advances in internet and phone banking are not superficial, if First Direct says my money will be in someone’s account that afternoon, it is. But if I want to execute a transfer of money from one personal pension to another, I have to wait at least two weeks. Even a fund switch may take three days to execute.
One of the consequences of the new pension rules that are upon is , is that our customers are thinking of their pensions as bank accounts. This is their way of making it real. Those apples on Quietroom’s animated trees are fruit that people have realised.
But harvesting those fruit is no easy matter and consumer pressure will build on insurance companies and occupational pension administrators to ensure money is in people’s hands in banking not pension time.
We have a job to catch up. The idea of tapping an app to release cash is not fanciful. It is easy to pay for a loaf of bread by mobile phone in Kenya. It should be easy for me to tell my mobile phone to pay a flexible lump sum payment from my pension to bank account. This will happen – the question is how long will it take to catch up.
Technology is expensive to develop and cheap to deploy. Investment in making things easy is tough, since it relies on a belief in change. Fortunately their are Brunels out there. I have written in recent blogs of Will Lovegrove and systemsync, I work with Novarca who use technology to analyse where we are overpaying for our fund management, I hope that Pension PlayPen is delivering value to SMEs and micros.
All of us, looking to progress people’s desire to convert information into knowledge, must put up our products and allow them to be judged.
The payback is through incremental changes in the ways things work which create long-term value. We are still getting payback from Brunel’s engineering 150 years ago.
The dark hour of the innovator
A wise boss told me (and everyone else who worked for him) that the darkest hour was the hour before dawn and that the dark hour of the innovator was the hour before the invention became recognised.
To Quietroom, Previnet, Pollen, Novarca and Pension PlayPen and many more of our friends embarked on making pension changes happen, now is that dark hour.