Is financial services an industry for alpha males?

Dictionary.com defines the term alpha male as follows… 

“A male animal having the highest rank in a dominance hierarchy… the most dominant, powerful, or assertive man in a particular group.”

That’s not me.

“The reason we’re letting you go, Steve, is you’ve delivered a five-year strategy, and we can pay someone half your salary to implement it, and you are not alpha male enough for the bank!”

[My exit interview at RBS Nov 2007.]

Since a child, I have always had that ego-soul connection. I had what Stephen R. Covey calls a conscience, the 8th habit. I’ve always struggled to come to terms with my alpha male.

For the first 20 years of my career, I spent at an insurance company full of alpha male salespeople. I was a multi-award-winning chartered financial service professional, heading up business development for the pensions arm. I was a leader. But I would never have made honours at the coal face. I was never alpha male enough.

I witnessed the mis-selling scandals, endowments, pension transfers, precipice bonds, and unregulated collectives. Alpha males sell products stuffed with charges.

I moved to the banks as hundreds of thousands in home service salesforces all disappeared.

Stephen R. Covey influenced me again with his 4th habit, win-win.

It was 2003 when I launched the UK’s first single-provider wrap platform.

2005 when I launched the first retail auto-rebalancing multi-asset funds.

Today, 8 in 10 investors are on platforms or in retail multi-asset funds.

It was 2012 when I left the banks as tens of thousands of bancassurance advisers disappeared.

It was deja vu.

I launched the Academy of Life Planning, the first advice-only financial planning network (planning without an alpha male).

The arrival of Vanguard’s retail multi-asset funds and direct-to-consumer offering saw the commodification of the UK investment industry in 2020.

As Christopher Woolard, then interim CEO at the FCA said in Sep 2020:

“The consumer investment market is not working as well as it should. Too often consumers receive lower returns than they should because of unsuitable products with high fees. Too often there have been scams and scandals in this market leading to consumer loss. Too often consumers leave their savings in cash because they don’t have confidence in the alternatives. That’s why we have made Consumer Investments a priority in our current Business Plan. The overwhelming majority of retail investors are best served by readily understood, well-diversified and low-cost investments which are already available from a range of providers, but many retail investors don’t choose these. We are seeing some progress on reforms of governance and a focus on making investments better value for money, but progress is still slower than we might like.”

The market wasn’t working as it should, leading to consumer duty regulations for 2023.

In 2021, I launched the world’s first customer-directed Open banking-powered financial planning application. This fintech democratises financial planning.

Today, our initial assumption is that consumers can produce their financial plans and invest their money with the proper support.

By investing in retail multi-asset funds and platforms, consumers receive the returns they should. Suitable products. Low fees. Integrity is assured by placing the wall between advice and product.

It has been a few decades in the making, but the proper support is not alpha male.

The proper support is an advice-only financial planner.

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