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The Trust Hurdle — how new, tech-led finance brands can win the favour of nervous customers

Catherine Elliott28 June 2019

Bright and early on Wednesday morning, we welcomed over 50 senior marketers to Octopus HQ for a breakfast speaker session in partnership with 3search — the marketing, digital and business development recruitment specialists.

The theme for the morning? Trust. More specifically, how to gain it when you’re a new, tech-led financial company.

And who better to address the room than three individuals from companies that are trying to overcome the trust hurdle — Nutmeg’s Head of Finance, Lisa Caplan, Monzo’s Head of Compliance, Jocelyn Tasker, and Octopus Wealth’s very own CEO, Richard Wazacz.

‘Digital wealth managers’

Lisa Caplan kicked off the morning’s discussion by opening up about the trust barriers currently faced by Nutmeg. The main one being that they’re considered a ‘robo-adviser’ — something she says isn’t entirely accurate.

“The idea of a robot is not something that engenders trust”, she explained — “we prefer to call ourselves ‘digital wealth managers’ instead.”

But leaving technology aside for a moment, she went on to say that the biggest trust issue faced by emerging fintechs is still the underlying lack of trust when it comes to the financial industry in general, particularly the advice sector.

24% of the population don’t think they need an adviser, 20% don’t trust an adviser, and 21% think financial advice is too expensive.

So, what’s Nutmeg’s approach?

Jargon-free transparency

No-nonsense openness about where exactly your money’s going and who’s managing it is key, Lisa continued.

“We try to be as jargon-free as possible — with easy to understand, educational content and a great user experience.”

Nutmeg’s most effective way to help customers overcome the trust hurdle? “Simply having a human behind our technology to speak to. Knowing that your money is being managed by real people is incredibly comforting,” Lisa concluded.

Sharing and trust — do they go together?

Next up was Monzo’s Head of Compliance, Jocelyn Tasker. Reiterating Lisa’s observation that perhaps the greatest hurdle is still the underlying lack of trust in financial institutions as a whole, Jocelyn took us through Monzo’s approach.

As an emerging digital bank that’s rivaling established institutions, Monzo is doing something (well, a lot…) right. And it might be their dedication to transparency (the T word again) that’s given them an edge when it comes to gaining trust so quickly and at scale.

Monzo makes a big deal of practicing what it preaches — even internally. All of their employee Slack channels are open, all data (except customer data) is shared, all meetings are open, and here’s a big one — all of their internal documents and emails are completely public. Every email sent must have a shared email account (that's accessible to all Monzo employees) cc’d. No gossip threads in sight.

Externally, it means sharing as much as they can with customers. From testing roadmaps, to discussing upcoming product features, to simply holding their hands up when there’s a problem, the team at Monzo let their customers in on some of the biggest decisions being made behind closed doors.

But when does it become oversharing?

Speeding along the straight and narrow

Although Monzo are moving at lightning speed (account usage has gone up from 12% to 30% in the last 12 months), there are some things they can’t compromise on when it comes to sharing. Pretty big things, like customer information, employee information, partnership deal and company financials.

They might seem obvious but, as Jocelyn explained, when you’re going so fast it can be difficult to ensure you’re staying within the lines — and of course, that’s a surefire way to lose trust in an instant.

Monzo have massively upped their governance to ensure their sharing policy is watertight, and the trust that they’ve worked so hard to build is retained. (Considering they’ve just set up shop in Vegas, too, the old saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” seems fitting.)

Establishing trust for Monzo, Jocelyn concluded, means finding the balance between “moving fast and staying within the lines.” It’s all in a day’s work.

20 years of building trust

Last to take the stage was Octopus Wealth’s own CEO, Richard Wazacz.

Prior to founding Octopus Wealth, Richard was CEO of Octopus Labs, the Group’s fintech division, where he launched peer-to-peer lending product Octopus Choice and savvy savings service Octopus Cash.

Richard began by taking us on a journey through the Octopus Group’s near twenty year history. Its founders worked in asset management and soon grew tired of the complexity, the jargon and the secrecy that surrounded financial institutions.

They launched Octopus Investments in 2000, and have subsequently spent the last 20 years building businesses based on transparency (there it is again) and trust.

Passing the so-called ‘Ronseal test’, Richard continued, has underpinned most of Octopus’ work. “If it doesn’t do what it says on the tin, we’re not doing it right.”

What do people care about?

Within Octopus Wealth, overcoming the trust hurdle means delivering financial advice in a way that both appeals and matters to people. And juggling that with a tech offering.

As Richard put it, “Not many people really get excited about the intricacies of where their money goes when they invest it.”

They’re interested in knowing how much money they’re going to need every year, for the rest of their lives. And the confirmation that they won’t run out.

The Octopus Wealth ‘Lifeline’ shows you exactly that. It’s a visual indicator of the big events in you and your family’s future, mapped against your finances. And when things change (like your life goals, or your financial situation) your Lifeline changes too.

Clarity is something that can be quite hard to find before entering a financial relationship — the value of what you’re actually getting and paying for may not always be crystal clear. With the Lifeline, however, you can see in black and white how advice can help and, more precisely, how much better off you’ll be because of it.

Echoing Lisa’s earlier concerns about being a ‘robo-adviser’ — the Octopus Wealth offering may be delivered with the support of technology, but it’s wholly powered by people. The person you’re actually getting advice from, and who’s looking after your finances, is a fully qualified financial planner, who you can speak to at any time.

For Richard, presenting financial advice in a way that resonates with what people actually care about (like when they can retire) — combined with technology that allows you to engage with your financial adviser when and how you like — is the secret to overcoming the trust hurdle that today’s fintechs face.

“Those are the decisions and the things people actually care about when it comes to their finances. Not an exciting opportunity in the Japanese stock market, or whether you’re over-concentrated in Brazilian equities.”

A huge thanks to Lisa, Jocelyn and Richard for sharing some powerful insights on a hot topic at the moment within emerging financial companies.

And of course, to 3search for helping us to put on such a successful event.

We hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did and took something away from what was a great morning’s discussion.

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