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Licence to Choose

I often wonder what I would serve James Bond if he just happened to turn up at my house. The rather obvious vodka martini (shaken not stirred) and the finest vintage champagne immediately springs to mind. Perhaps a Mouton Rothschild claret in memory of the villain's mistake in Diamonds Are Forever.

All of these are too obvious!

In From Russia With Love, it is disclosed that 007’s favourite meal is breakfast. His breakfast is always the same; coffee, boiled egg followed by buttered toast and a choice of 3 preserves:

  • Tiptree “Little Scarlet” which contains sixty strawberries, which makes this jam twice as heavy as most jams
  • Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade is a dark, bitter, thick coarse cut Seville orange marmalade, which is a perfect contrast to the sweetness of melted “deep yellow Jersey butter”
  • Fortnum & Mason Norwegian Heather Honey is dark amber that has a strong distinctive woody aroma

The issue of choice is a hot topic in the world of pensions. Should people have choice? What are the dangers of choice? Do people want choice?

Shortly after the advent of personal pensions, we saw a burgeoning list of funds which left most people paralysed by the choice. Further evidence of the research that was done on jams that found that 30% of customers offered the limited choice of 6 varieties purchased a jar where only 3% of the customers offered 24 varieties purchased a jar.

There is a real danger of choice where the customer may engage at the time of purchase choosing a specialist fund but then lose interest potentially causing detriment if the fund becomes wholly inappropriate for performance or risk reasons.

People are curious! If you take away choice, they want it – “Why do I have to buy an annuity”. Given the choice, they often sink into despair in having to choose.

The issue with choice is that you need to make a decision. A neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people who had received brain injuries that damaged that part of the brain where emotions are generated. The interesting thing he found was that their ability to make decisions was seriously impaired. They could logically describe what they should be doing, in practice, they found it very difficult to make decisions about where to live, what to eat, etc.

How can pensions learn from the world of espionage where spies go to work after toast topped with one of 3 preserves? Remember the scene in Casino Royale?
Q: Well, I'll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pyjamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field.
007: Oh, so why do you need me? 
Q: Every now and then a trigger has to be pulled. 
James Bond: Or not pulled. It's hard to know which in your pyjamas. 

A stark reminder to us all in our industry that using digital solutions is a must to generate efficiencies but we must not forget that in order to help our customers make decisions from the choices available to them, there needs to be emotional engagement.

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