Addiction is not a word that resonates positively.

But we had a discussion yesterday centred on getting people addicted to properly managing their money, in which the word seemed entirely appropriate.

People get addicted to courses of action resulting from a need to feed some personal craving. If that craving is destructive, as most addictions are, then the addiction needs be fought. But what of positive addictions?

A Christian may be addicted to prayer, or to attendance of church, my CFO is addicted to the perusal of time sheets and I must accept I would find it hard not to blog in the morning. Others are addicted to Facebook or Linked In and these obsessions last so long as the objects of our addiction remain absolutely relevant to us.

When the relevance wears off, then our attention waivers. The difficulty that most social media sites have is not in attracting custom, but in keeping it.

Constantly relevant?

The constant reinvention needed to keep a subject  relevant, to maintain the level of user addiction is the long-term challenge of the financial educators.

It is easy to engage, harder to educate but to maintain the levels of education and engagement and engage over time so that good financial practices are hard-coded into people’s brains involves a great deal more than good intentions.

That is why most financial advisors struggle to get clients to renew fee contracts year after year, why subscriptions to websites are rarely maintained more than a few months and why most workplace financial education programs receive remarkable initial feedback , but have little lasting impact on participant behaviours. They lack the wherewithal to addict.


Speaking to my friends at MoneyHub about this, we talked about a rule of 95 where 95% of what you do , remains the same, but the 5% that changes is the nicotine in the cigarette that keeps the punter coming back for more. It’s the mojo- the x-factor, the magic ingredient that makes and keeps a proposition continually impelling.

MoneyHub are currently talking about it as “financial wellness” a phrase that probably strikes a chord with the millions of us obsessed by diet, nutrition, exercise and health. I discovered yesterday that the funding for MoneyHub is linked to healthcare initiatives such as “multiplier” and “vitality”.

What is the secret to getting the addiction in place? According to MoneyHub CEO – toby Hughes- it’s all about the first three minutes you spend with a proposition. He reckons if he can give his prospective customers a good first three minutes, he can keep them for the next three hours- easily enough to create the germ of an addiction.

BTW- I can see this as intuitively the case though the majority of “wellness” advertising makes me shrivel like a snail as I reflect on my sorry lifestyle! I sense that a sense of humour is needed to attract me to a gym, something i find the wellness industry rather short of!


Technology to the rescue?

But the maintenance of relevance is a lot harder and depends on financial education continuing to educate and empower. This is where technology really cuts in. New means of capturing data, encouraged by the Government’s demands for more open access to our financial information is meaning we can now look at most of our finances on a single screen with a few strokes of our fingers.

I tried it yesterday using MoneyHub’s new systems (still in Beta). Because the data is constantly live, it draws me back to check, just as my wordpress stats, linkedin connections and Facebook “likes” do.

If this sounds very ephemeral, it is, there’s no doubt that what may work in Q4 2015 (when the new stuff goes live) will look as outdated in Q4 2016 as the mobile phone brick. The pace of technological change is (IMO) accelerating, especially in the areas where FinTech is trying to go.

Shakespeare’s had no problem staying relevant!

I wrote recently about this need to constantly be tomorrow’s prototype and to accept that no sooner have you scaled one summit than you must move to the next. Everything on the web is a prototype.

But driving back from Bristol yesterday with my friends Mark and Jenny, we were discussing Shakespeare. Jenny asked me “hadn’t I got Shakespeare sorted at college”. I thought of a couple of recent productions I’d gone to and realised that the Shakespeare I knew at college was different from my Shakespeare today.

If you get it right- really right- as Shakespeare did all the time – the writing – or should I say “righting” remains as relevant because of the 95% core of deep relevance.

For something, whether it is MoneyHub or First Actuarial’s financial education programs or to remain valuable over time, the 95% core proposition must have fundamental value (in the old days we’d have called this “truth”). Perhaps the best word is “integrity” though any word loses its “validity” if sloppily used.


Facebook and the focus on “you”.

I’m drawn by this 95/5 formula for positive addiction. It is a useful way of thinking about sustainable relevance for a customer base. Of course the 95% is harder but it is the 5% of immediate relevance that requires ongoing attention.

Toby Hughes suggested that the reason why Facebook has remained totally relevant for so long is that it is a website totally dedicated to “you”. Designing something with total dedication to “you” and not as a means to reward “me” is Facebook’s brilliance and (if Toby has its way) , it may be why MoneyHub succeeds where thousands haven’t.





About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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