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Simple is genius... but not profitable

When I was a student, I remember how we were introduced to the western management concepts like KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and were told that the best products and services are the ones, which are simple.

Which makes sense if you look at for example Apple productswhere simplification and getting rid of unnecessary makes for genius products. Keyboard? Complex, replace with a finger. Big PC made of several parts? Too complex,replace with a tablet. Clunky and heavy OS? Nah, replace with the one that's unnoticable to the user and is fast.

Or take Google Chrome, which, if you believe this week's headlines, is finally going to get ahead of Internet Explorer in terms of number of users. I am eagerly anticipating this moment, as well as I am sure half of the humankind who can't stand Internet Explorer for its complexity, instability and constant problems. Every article and blog post on advantages of Chrome would use words like 'simple', as in 'simple to use'.

There are many examples. It seems obvious - if you create a simple and easy to use product in a complex industry, you will create a movement. Yet, as I am discovering lately, all is not that simple. Western management may preach simplicity in product design, etc., yet there is an industry, where profits come from pver complicating - Financial services.

Of course, financial products are complex due to their nature, legislation, risk, etc. etc. It's true. Saying that, most of them, especially in retail banking, are overly complex. You realise this better than anywhere in the UK. Here the complexity of the financial (retail) products is what contributes to profitability of the key industry players, while also allowing a number of niche players to exist and be profitable. An average user of the products feels like a millionaire, due to how difficult it's to manage his or her average finances. Try to get to grips with pension on your own. Or savings, especially investment ISAs. Or try to choose best mortgage, without the help of a mortgage broker. Now try to understand the state of your overall finances, including all of the above, plus investments, taxes, etc.

I don't say it's impossible, it is, it's just you will need so much time, robust analytical skills, good knowledge of financial products and steel nerves. For example, nothing is capable of onsetting the severest of depressions in me like reading a 'user friendly ' and 'easy to navigate' web site of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, local tax authority.

It's not surprising the industry of financial advisors is thriving. And they cost up to a couple of hundred pounds per hour. Navigating the extremely complex world of financial products on your own is hard. It's not surprising that many Brits have given up on their pensions - they are too complex, too risky, because investments which pension money is used for are also complex and hard to understand. Retail banks also have to have advisors, who will help you choose one of the regular saving accounts by explaining complex terms and conditions, the problem is they are incentivised to sell riskier products, which they will try to sell you.

In the precrisis world, the average financial products user was deep asleep, lulled by the financial terms & conditions. Everything was profitable and risk was low. Now everything is different. Inflation is on the rise, as well as taxes and prices, whereas salaries are frozen. People have taken out the calculators and are carefully studying bank statements. There is no choice, you have to become your own financial advisor. Mass media is on bankers' heels constantly, bonuses and product complexity are constantly challenged by public and increasingly governments, etc. etc. - the spirit of Occupy Wall Street is in the air.

Hence, when next time some western manager tells you thay Kazakhstan financial sector has not achieved the complexity of his or her country's, say 'Thank God'. Complexity is good, but not when it's over the board, when it allows for multi layered profits, yet bankrupts its basic customer who money belongs to in the first place. The simpler the financial services, the bettr off regular customers, like you and me. I in the meantime am considering saving my Kazakhstan pension - it's growing well, as compared to the one in the UK, anld it's easy to understand where my money is invested. In Kazakhstan, everything is simpler. As for the UK, I am going to buy that financial advisor book on Amazon. I refuse to pay hundreds of hard earned pounds to an 'expert' to paint me my financial picture. I can paint it myself, and it looks gloomy.

Secret Marketer

18 2012 | View: 1 337 | Opinions | Printint version
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