Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Best Buy Effect

It’s not easy being Best Buy these days.

Price competition is intense, and pressure is coming from all directions. Online competitors, without costly overhead, are selling the same products cheaper. Tech-savvy consumers are comparison shopping right on the showroom floor, using mobile phones and the RedLaser app to scan for the best price. Instantly, a consumer can get a list of better deals on a flat screen TV or Blu-ray player from online retailers and even nearby stores.

Wealth advisors are facing the same challenges from online “firms” like Wealthfront and from other advisors who are willing to cut their fees to win business.

The Opportunity in Solving Problems

But all is not lost for advisors or retailers if they heed the lesson from one of Best Buy’s more successful innovations: The Geek Squad.

The Geek Squad delivers what most low-priced product sellers don’t: Expertise to make everything work together. Anyone who has ever tried to create a home theater knows the frustration. Integrating sophisticated pieces of consumer electronics has almost become rocket science. Best Buy is keeping clients happy and loyal by providing a service that makes it easy to buy and then enjoy cool products.

Financial advisors have the same opportunity to attract and retain clients if they take the responsibility to simplify the many complex financial products and design a program that works.

In fact, anyone can open a discount brokerage account, do some online research and start buying investment products. However, buying and selling products doesn’t equate to comprehensive wealth management. There’s much more to this discipline than most recognize initially.

Watch Out For Cheap

An advisor who provides real value need not fear the cheap advice that can be obtained online or through cut-rate competitors.

Cheap online advice is nothing more than a computer algorithm. More often than not, human strategy trumps most computer driven decisions (Kasparov Wins). Only an experienced human advisor can provide that strategy and then recommend how to put together the complex investment solutions that meet each client’s needs. When you’re talking about your life savings and financial independence, what would you prefer, a cheap computer automated solution or a unique personalized plan?

Put another way, it might seem like a good idea to buy the bargain-priced flat screen TV and then read the directions to mount and connect the components. You can’t really appreciate the Geek Squad until the whole project has gone terribly awry. It’s one thing to mess up your home theater; it’s another when it’s your financial security.

That’s the good news for advisors. By providing understandable solutions, personalized service and delivering wise counsel – an advisor’s value proposition is as compelling as ever.


Anonymous said...

Who says an investment advisor is better than a computer algorithm? Wasn't it Blog on Wealth that criticized the asset allocation algorithm that most (if not all) advisors use to determine where their clients should invest their money? And wasn't it Blog on Wealth that endlessly advocated passive vs active managment? What's changed?

New Blogger said...

In the words of Hank Paulson

"I will never apologize for changing an approach when the facts change"

Jeff said...

Wealth managers - don't let the Best Buy effect happen to you!