Before you start trying to engage consumers, how about trying to engage me?

Under the auspices of the industry-wide trade body TISA, a large and unwieldy group of 50 financial institutions have come together to form something called the Savings and Investments Policy Project.  (You might imagine this would have the four-letter acronym SIPP, which would be unfortunate and confusing because this already belongs to Self Invested Pension Plans, but with this in mind the team have cunningly acronymed it TSIP.)

TSIP has been working away on its policy proposals, and yesterday held a half-day conference to summarise them.  There are six, all intended to encourage ordinary people to do more saving and investing so that they are better prepared for the future, and also of course so that they give TSIP member firms more money.

As far as I can recall, all the speakers all commented on the over-arching importance of finding ways to engage consumers with this whole idea of saving and investing.  And with the sole exception of the admirable Adrian Boulding, who had some good ideas and delivered them in an entertaining presentation, it was quite clear that none of them had the faintest idea how this engagement might be achieved.

Honestly, I don’t want to be too rude just in case I hurt the feelings of anyone involved (a million to one shot, obviously, but you never know) but even going to quite a few financial conferences, as I do, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard a drearier line-up of speakers.  If you asked me to imagine a group of people likely to be able to engage the general public on a subject which they know and care virtually nothing about, I simply could not imagine a group more different from this lot.

Among the 50 TSIP members, there’s no-one with any kind of creative background, no-one with any skills in communications, no-one whose job involves dealing with ordinary people – just a serried rank of white middle-class middle-aged men together with, to be fair, a couple of white middle-aged middle-class women, apparently only capable of delivering deadly dull content in deadly dull presentations.

I arrived feeling a) quite excited about the whole project, and b) vaguely hopeful that I might be able to find some sort of role in making it all come across a bit more engagingly.  I left four hours later just feeling c) that I wanted to stay as far away as I could from the whole dispiriting shambles.

As I’ve said a million times, it isn’t money that people find boring, inaccessible and unengaging, it’s us.  This thought never seemed truer than yesterday afternoon.

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