There is an activity that’s enthusiastically practised by a small proportion of the adult population, Most of these enthusiasts are getting on a bit in years, and few younger people are coming through to join them. The activity seems to have little to offer to the non-participating millions – it’s low key and under-promoted, it’s full of off-putting technical terms and jargon, getting into it seriously would be quite expensive and you worry that you could make an idiot of yourself if you didn’t know what you were doing.
Clearly, this underdeveloped market represents a massive business development opportunity. What’s needed is a new generation of services, stripping away all that jargon and complication, delivered mostly online so as to reduce cost and with nice, friendly, accessible brand identities to lessen perceptions of risk. If we can tick those fairly straightforward boxes, we can increase this size of the market tenfold, twentyfold, maybe even a hundredfold.
I’m obviously talking about investing, aren’t I, and making the case for the new generation of so-called robo-advisers – Nutmeg, Wealthify, Moola.
Except that I’m not. Unless you’re one of those enthusiastic practitioners, it probably won’t have occurred to you that I am in fact talking about ballroom dancing (which is indeed the world that those terms in my headline come from). And now you know that, you’ll quickly realise that those first two paras aren’t to be taken entirely seriously
Needless to say, they’re intended as a thought-provoking analogy, and the thought they’re intended to provoke is that just because millions of people don’t do something, it doesn’t always follow that there’s a huge business opportunity awaiting any new market entrant who can make it easy, free from jargon and cheap to do.
To make the same point in a consumer-centric way, consumers may have reasons not to do something that are far deeper and more difficult to overcome than simply perceptions of high cost, complexity and jargon.
This is not to say that these bigger barriers can’t be overcome: with shrewd insights and targeted marketing, many of them can. And it’s also not to say that lack of jargon, simplicity and low cost don’t matter: they do. As the saying goes, they’re necessary but not sufficient characteristics of any new service that stands any kind of chance.
But think for a minute about some of the reasons, actual and perceptual, why some 40 million UK adults don’t do any DIY investing; and then go on to think about the sort of propositions that new services would need in order to break through those barriers and start changing their minds.
I think on the whole that trying to trigger the renaissance of ballroom dancing might be an easier task.