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Who Should Fix The Financial Services Industry?

While Obama and this administration are going to fairly extreme measures to intervene in the financial services and health insurance industries, the public may have a different view as to their ability to fix the situation.

What does “fixing” mean?

Assuming you’re not a Schnauzer, the government’s definition is focused in the areas of derivatives, bailout, consumer protection and “too big to fail” issues. Getting better in these areas, which are all quite daunting, will help us “fix” the financial services experience for the American public.

But is the public in agreement that the government is the right place to have this happen?

According to a recent GfK Financial Services Study, 42 percent of Americans say they would like the government to take a diminished role in the financial services industry; not an insignificant figure by any means.

Then who is responsible?

If there is widespread agreement that government is not going to provide the best, most innovative solution, it’s left to private businesses and individuals to come up with the “big ideas.”

TIAA — CREF has taken some action in looking for ideas outside their company walls, specifically to “fix” the savings rate problem in the U.S.  It’s a wise idea, since they are trying to solve a problem and they are sitting in their own “jar.” Getting help from outside experts in parallel industries is a catalyst for innovation.

Where are the opportunities?

Under the umbrella of consumer protection, in particular, there is a significant demand for understanding. Not communication; understanding! 

In fact, a recent study conducted by Maddock Douglas shows that consumers are confused by language used by financial services and insurance companies. Despite that result, 49 percent of consumers feel that they are EQUALLY as responsible as the financial services and insurance industries for learning to understand. Surprising, but very encouraging.

If one were to be thinking about innovation in financial services or insurance, I suggest stopping three things first:

  1. Stop assuming that the consumer understands what you are saying
  2. Stop assuming that the consumer will naturally behave irresponsibly
  3. Stop assuming that you can get all the information you need by asking intermediaries

Then start thinking about this:

  1. Get immersed in your target. Deep insights through good research is the foundation for which the best ideas are formed.
  2. Bring outsiders in to help you figure it out. You can’t read the label when you are inside the jar.
  3. Follow through with excellent execution, keeping key stakeholders involved well beyond the idea generation phase.

By taking pause on the routine and instilling new habits, different is bound to occur. While different isn’t always better, same is not an option!

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