Kelly Johnson, lead engineer at the famous Lockheed Skunk Works, coined the acronym KISS.
Whilst today it translates as ‘Keep it simple stupid’, the principle was best illustrated by the story of Johnson handing a team of design engineers a handful of tools, with the challenge that the sophisticated jet aircraft they were designing must be repairable by an average mechanic in the field under combat conditions with only these tools.
Hence, the ‘stupid’ refers to the relationship between the way things break and the sophistication available to fix them when it happens.
As a country, UKplc has moved away from the manufacture of goods and products heading instead toward the manufacture and provision of intangible goods and services.
Financial services is often collectively referred to as an industry. Distribution was seldom linked to a profession, until the RDR arrived, and the industry is made up of many different “manufacturers” (providers) and distributers large and small.
Often very similar, intangible products have been designed to address a vast array of perceived financial needs or problem solving solutions for both personal and corporate consumption.
But in the brave new world of post apocalyptic RDR, the delivery of consumer friendly, understandable, simplified advice (to those consumers disenfranchised by adviser segmentation as being not cost effective to service) that could lead to a transactional outcome online is being thwarted by the very thing that should make it simple.
It is a fact that any ‘industry’ that “designs and manufactures” products have done so because it has identified a consumer need, or at least thinks it has. In doing so it then needs to create awareness of what it has made – and to find a way of getting it distributed. That still often means finding a sales force or in our more technologically enlightened times an easy way for somebody to buy it.
Indeed, obviously simple and there are so many ways to achieve the awareness and understanding with technology to enable the ‘shop’ button to be hit.
Video linked to free internet research opportunity and understandings can have a big impact in gaining better informed, engaged and protected consumers.
There are some 340,000 years of video watched globally online every day. 68% share their viewings and for firms that have video embedded on their site relating to a product or service, 88% of visitors spend more time on their site.
Consumers who watch a product video are 85% more likely to buy it. The phrase ‘what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what goes on in YouTube stays on Google forever’ is a great reminder that a compliance trail is nicely dealt with at the same time, no more ‘he said, she said’.
Simplified advice is possible, maybe a starting point would be inventing a different descriptive such as “Simplified Outcomes” or ‘Simplified Solutions’?
And to make this work, a set of plain English protocols should be put in place that simplifies the regulation and responsibility for “Simplified Outcomes” or ‘Simplified Solutions’, placing a consumer looking for low cost financial ‘understandings’ in an informed space, able quickly and easily to make a good decision and purchase while at the same time ensuring understanding they have an element of responsibility for their choices.
Steve Jobs said “We made the ‘buttons’ on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them”.
As an industry, that should be our target, to get attention, to create confidence in the end user.
How can this be achieved though when the existing lines between advice, product and who is responsible are blurred when it suits?
Well, as a start, all manufacturers of financial services products should be required to have the product they “manufacture” certified or licensed as fit for “Simplified Outcomes” or ‘Simplified Solutions’ delivery in a clearly defined set of tick boxed financial planning circumstances and licenced accordingly- by the regulator.
The outcome of this would be that those not able to afford fees will know that “Simplified Outcomes” or ‘Simplified Solutions’ to satisfy their needs can be wrapped up in a recommended packaged product that has been deemed fit for that purpose by the regulator.
The word ‘advice’ must be removed from the process to make this work.
The regulator would carry responsibility for what it is regulating in the “Simplified Outcomes” or ‘Simplified Solutions’ space, creating the simplicity bit, unlike today. We would then see an end to the possibility of inappropriate or faulty products being sold or bought for the wrong reasons to the wrong people.
After all it seems crazy that in today’s regulatory world (where cars cannot get on the road, planes cannot fly, drugs cannot be consumed without a regulatory body certification that they are safe to drive, fly, inject) regulated products, funds and schemes are not licensed as fit for a particular, even specific purpose and instead often deemed unfit for purpose after the event because of perceived miss-selling, miss-understanding or miss-buying.
Can the FCA embrace KISS, well let’s see?