Articles - AXA Wealth calls on industry to recapture pioneering zeal

 With just 44 days (and 8 hours) to go before the start of the London Olympics AXA Wealth's Mike Morrison is questioning whether Britain has lost its zeal and reputation for pioneering sport and financial services, having successfully exported some of the world's most popular games and financial innovations over the past 300 years.
 Speaking at the Marketforce and IEA's 15th annual conference - The Future of Life and Long-Term Savings - in London today, Mike Morrison said he believed that the RDR was an opportunity for our financial services industry to show the world that it still had the imagination, drive, expertise and passion to lead the way in new thinking and new customer solutions in financial services.
 "Britain is a pioneering nation" Morrison said, "renowned for its ability to expand horizons and spread ideas around the world, from popular music in the 20th century and sport and financial services as far back as the 17th century.
 "In a year that will see Britain host the Olympic games for a record third time, along with the Paralympic Games, isn't it time we recognise the huge contribution this country has made to the world of sport but, with the revolution that RDR will help usher in, equally the role we have played, and can continue to play, in shaping the way financial services can transform people's lives for the better."
 Since the starting gun was fired on both the Olympics in 2005, and RDR in 2006 with the Callum McCarthy 'call to arms', both 'events' have had seven years to get it right, but also to consider what legacy they want to leave for the future.
 "I see the forthcoming period as our own 'wealth games'," said Morrison, where only those companies with the scale and strong brand, with an offer that delivers customer value and simplicity and the ability to continue to adapt and evolve, will win their chosen races; races where the focus is matching the right channels to the right customers.
 "Many of the life companies of old now actually look old, really old, and are increasingly being overtaken by the new kids on the block with low cost, green field operations, better able in many ways to adapt and flex to the dramatic shifts in the consumer landscape.
 "These new firms know that the key drivers of change will be the increase in self-directed investing, the RDR and its potential to transform the client outcomes, and a move towards simplifying every aspect of the customer's experience with enabling technology. Many of them are far better equipped to harness all of these compared with a traditional life provider."
 Recent research underlines the dramatic levels of confusion amongst employees on almost all aspects of pensions – 58% not understanding what an annuity is, is just one example; yet 9 out of 10 of us buy one! In response, NEST has published its own golden rules for communicating to employees. "A noble idea," said Morrison, "and another sign perhaps that we are all waking up to the need to make investing as easy as we possibly can."
 The once frowned upon idea of marketing investments direct to consumers is now warmly embraced by professional advisers if the latest AXA Wealth/YouGov research is to be believed, with over 60 percent saying they are not threatened by such a service which is for clients who don't have the need for regular on-going financial advice.
 Morrison concludes: "To paraphrase the Olympic aspirations, as an industry we need to be stronger, by understanding our customers' needs and building a more efficient, robust business. We need to aim higher, by growing our assets and nurturing new, creative ideas. And we need to become faster, by turning these ideas into reality for customers and our people. We also need to make it easy. If we can do that we will build a new, credible and trusted partnership with our clients, which is profitable for customers, shareholders and employees alike.
 "The legacy of the 1908 Olympics was perhaps the template for the modern Olympic games. 1948's legacy was arguably a more unified Europe after WWII, and a more optimistic future after years of austerity. It is too early for the 2012 Olympics, and also for the 2013 RDR. In my view though our legacy should be a more confident, modern, and customer-friendly industry, that has removed all the hurdles in order to make investing easy.
 “Change is all around so the finishing line never actually finishes – there will always be games to win. If we all continue to aim to be stronger, higher and faster, we can build a legacy that positions us once again as the pioneer in financial services. Let the games commence!”

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