With soap operas adding to the stereotyping of financial advisers, Brendan Llewellyn asks whether it's time you looked at how you describe your offering…
What do people think about financial advisers? What kind of brand image do they have? With many adviser firms seeking to expand their client reach, the question of image is crucial.
Brand image is a composite: it comes from experience, or the way in which an experience is processed and rationalised. It may also come from preconception, prejudice or some sort of widely-accepted view.
A quick flick through the TV channels shows some concerning stereotyping.
Soap operas, Del Boy and you
Advisers in soaps, for example, are a pretty rum bunch: Richard Hilman combined serial killing activities with a day job as a financial adviser in Coronation Street, while Max Branning, Eastenders' resident adviser, is usually characterised as a life insurance salesmen.
I suspect Branning baulked at Level 4 and seems now to be concentrating on his less-than-pucker second-hand car enterprise.
So, if two major soaps are reinforcing such stereotyping, there's an interesting brand challenge ahead (perhaps I shouldn't mention Emmerdale, where veteran character Pearl‘s son Frank Bernard, who she claimed was a financial adviser, was in fact released from prison after completing a sentence for rape).
Research from rplan asked consumers which fictional character most reflected their image of "financial adviser".
Top came Del Boy with 37% while Derek Branning, Max's gangster brother with no apparent financial services connection, came in fifth. Second place was Ken Barlow which at least suggests some of the population think of advisers as a source of good counsel (rplan's research predates the allegations directed at actor Bill Roach).
Who are you?
One thing to consider is basic description. When the IFA tag came in most started using the IFA logo - some still do, but a much lower number. Independence has faltered as a clarion call.
Several adviser firms consider that the financial adviser brand, independent or not, is permanently impaired so have taken it out of their business and personal tile altogether. Instead they use combinations of ‘financial planner', ‘wealth manager' and ‘holistic planner'.
Some are using Chartered, if qualified, to characterize themselves and their business. ‘Unbiased' is growing as an alternative to independent.
There is a definite emergence of twin streams with one group offering goal-based life planning and the other, more traditional, offering wealth enhancement or management.
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