Industry predictions for 2014

As we burst into the new year, Karen Barrett, CEO at unbiased.co.uk, gives us her thoughts on the opportunities and challenges the industry can expect for 2014.

By Karen Barrett

Increase in technology

The exponential trend of consumers using technology to find advice will clearly continue. Advisers will need to be aware of how to optimise their websites on mobile and on tablets to make sure their service is being viewed in a professional way by as many people as possible. The way advisers relate to their clients will change, ultimately being driven by the customer choosing how they would prefer to be communicated to. This will include less face-to-face meetings and better utilisation of technology, such as social media, Skype and email are to be expected - leading to potentially more efficient ways to maintain client relationships.

Social responsibility

The market has evolved across the board to become fairer to consumers. With the recession still echoing, consumers will still be eager to keep a handle on costs and keener than ever that their services are fair and reasonable. We can see this with the explosion in comparison sites and energy deals as people are becoming more aware of their money.

SoLoMo Or ‘social, local and mobile’. There is no denying that the world is a far more ‘social’ place than it ever has been. The last few years have witnessed a flood in new customer communications channels and touchpoints. Smartphones and always-on connectivity means consumer expectations around response times and access to information are now radically different.

This will pose a challenge to companies of all sizes in terms of maintaining customer service and ensuring the brand experience is top notch. Advisers will need to question how their particular business is responding.

Post RDR

Despite 2012 pre-RDR worries, 2013 was a great year for advice. Unbiased.co.uk saw an increase in demand for whole of market advice, with a 29 per cent boost in web visitors year on year. Reasons for this no doubt include some banks withdrawing from the advice market and those that still provide advice now having clear charges for doing so. This leads to consumers realising the true value of advice and shopping around. There’s no reason why this can’t continue into 2014.

Qualifications and accreditations could well be the next area of focus. Now RDR has meant all advisers needing to have at least a QCF4, will there be a new higher minimum? How will advisers differentiate themselves now there’s a level playing field? It’s up to professional advisers to find new ways to stand out from the crowd.

Auto-enrolment

So far we’ve seen the larger companies reaching their auto-enrolment staging dates, but as we enter into 2014 we’ll see the critical mass of SME companies needing guidance as they reach their deadlines. This is potentially a fantastic opportunity for client acquisition, as well as a chance for advisers to speak to existing clients about their other business needs, such as protection or referring them onto an accountant. Advisers should be considering what strategies to have in place for the auto-enrolment rush.

DIY finance

A lot has been written recently about DIY finance and its possible threat to the adviser industry. But this is a good thing, as opposed to a threat. It’s important for consumers to engage with their finances through the increased prevalence of online guidance, such as the ABI’s annuity tables or the Money Advice Service. Resources such as these are actually generating a demand for advice. Consumers can start the process of engagement in the short term, but when it comes to executing long-term strategies for things such as retirement, tax and annuities, there is still a clear winner and that is professional independent advice.


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