Devote more energy to growing the beans rather than counting them.

Running a business in the UK is complex enough so why do we platinum plate compliance and other bureaucracies to the extent it strangles growth?

Early in my marketing career, back in 1997, an American company invited me to travel to Chicago to present about critical illness cover. Their marketing director had seen me talk at a UK conference and felt I could help them launch their protection range in the States.


It seemed a long way to travel just to deliver a couple of seminars. So I spoke to Swiss Re (our primary reinsurer at the time), and they set up a week’s worth of meetings with US financial services companies.

A couple of colleagues accompanied me, and we spent that week sucking in knowledge and ideas which we hoped to bring back across the pond to try in the UK market. We also managed to visit a great blues bar for an evening of exquisite guitar playing.

One business meeting still sticks in my mind to this day. The larger than life, cigar smoking marketing director of a large protection insurer welcomed us into his office and gave us his perspective on business.

Not an accountant or actuary, he was a career sales and marketing man. I can still hear him saying one of his pearls of wisdom.

He leaned forward through the smoke and said, “Never employ more people to count your beans or measure your beans than you do to grow your beans.”

Now nearly twenty years on I hear those words every time I come up against bureaucracy from the companies I deal with (admittedly not just from the financial services sector). How many of us employ more people to count and measure than we do to grow? And how much of that extra headcount is because we have platinum plated the guidelines?

I see companies with 48-hour approval processes for Tweets which require signing off from compliance, marketing, legal and customer service. I see marketing teams having to fill in 20-page procurement forms to engage someone to write a 500 word article for a blog. I see complex internal IT legacy systems that stifle the ability to experiment and require 18 months to 2 years to build new propositions.

When I studied marketing at university, I remember reading about two approaches to business. Marketing led, and sales led. It seems these days we are either led by risk and compliance or IT and Projects.

The FCA’s recent paper on social media (FG15/4) means that companies should find it easier and simpler to “comply” social media messages. I believe the time is right for businesses to accelerate (or begin) to put their social media and content marketing strategies in place. Will this happen or will companies build another complex process around the guidelines that continues to stifle creativity?

It’s time to stand up to the often self-inflicted complex and bureaucratic business landscape. I believe that success means we must simplify our propositions and messages, create incredible content and experiment with new marketing tactics to grow our business. And that means simplifying the governance behind them.

It’s time to devote more energy to growing the beans rather than counting and measuring them.

Questions for you:

Am I being unfair in my views here? Have you any examples of platinum plating? Please share your experience on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. And even Google+.

You can find the original version of this article at Panacea Adviser.

Jonathan Hughes on Protection Think Tanks and Automated Digital Advisers – MPAF41

How far off are we from a completely automated digital adviser?

One firm ran a successful April Fool recently claiming to have invented and installed such a robot. However, is such a device likely to materialise soon?

My guest today makes predictions about this and other developments based on work he and colleagues from RGA are carrying out in their Think Tank hidden in the depths of suburban Surrey.

Hear how Jonathan thinks that an automated digital adviser is possible but would have to be able to persuade as well as deliver facts.

Listen to his thoughts on whether an automated digital adviser working alongside its human counterpart could ultimately stimulate growth, not only in the protection, but in all financial services sectors.

That’s all right here in episode 41 of the Marketing Protection and Finance Podcast.

Jonathan Hughes on Protection Think Tanks and Automated Digital Advisers

Who is Jonathan Hughes?

Jonathan qualified as an actuary in 2006 and is Head of Strategic Development at RGA in London.

He is currently exiled in a small office out in Surrey with Richard Verdin and a few others working on ways to reverse the decline in Protection sales that we’ve seen over the past five years.

A little known fact about Jonathan is that he once had his bags searched at Glasgow airport while carrying a list of different types of bomb and potential targets in London.

Jonathan’s Contact links:

Jonathan’s favourite Apps, Books and Stuff:

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Catriona Standingford on Excelling at Financial Services Qualifications – MPAF40

Since RDR the Level 4 Diploma is the minimum qualification for a financial planner.

Higher up the scale are Level 6 Chartered Status or Certified Status.

What do consumers prefer when looking for a financial adviser? Do they know the difference? And will the minimum standard be raised to a mandatory Level 6 in future?

My guest today helps advisers achieve success in their qualifications. It can be a complex journey and Catriona offers some great tips on how to make it through.

Listen to her thoughts on the differences between Chartered and Certified Status and how to plan for a good result.

Hear her prediction about whether Level 6 will become the new minimum standard.

That’s all right here in Episode 40 of the Marketing Protection and Finance Podcast.

Catriona Standingford MPAF40

Who is Catriona Standingford?

Catriona is the founder of Brand Financial Training.

She and her team have been around since January 2008 providing CII exam candidates with immediately accessible, quality learning resources. Her aim is to have happy customers who are passing their exams and progressing in their career.

A little known fact about Catriona is that she ran a letting agency – which she described as horrendous – so we won’t be talking about letting agencies today.

Catriona’s links:

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