The importance of thinking young at heart.

As you’ll be aware I’ve had to do a lot of research into the online innovation and social behaviours of financial services companies, which generally speaking, is phenomenally dry. It struck as me as terribly sad how little thought is invested in presenting these complex products, especially considering the controversial headlines over the past year. This morning I heard more bad news about massive bonuses being paid out to bankers and yet still we can’t close the gap in the class divide within this industry. Most of us will coast gently along on a wave of apathy, whist a minority continue to generate significant wealth for themselves.

Apathy is a challenge that a number of financial institutions say they are keen to address and yet there’s little evidence of this online, at least in the UK (perhaps the exception of First Direct). These changes need to happen before we even get to the Internet; if a financial services brand wants to engage a broader audience, it needs to understand their language, their motivations and do a little soul searching to create a social brand that is equipped to deal with online communities (aka “planning”). Lots of companies think about creating satellite content for social spaces online, but what a colossal disappointment it is when someone sees a fantastic microsite or Facebook page, only to discover they’ve woken up sober when they get to the main brand website.

I’ve possibly already mentioned the fact when I was at university I gatecrashed a postgrad lecture on the importance of hands-on learning for children. I asked at the end of talk, why it was so important to have practical learning for kids and yet by the time we get to university, we’re palmed off with some texts books and told to go read in a dark room until exam time. (I didn’t get an answer or least the speaker confessed he didn’t know.) A friend is running a pilot project with a financial services company on the power of story telling in financial education for kids; creating a richer experience for children to engage them with a complex subject. Also met an interesting guy at Tech Meet-Up who was looking at creating mobile apps to encourage children to take an interest/develop skills in maths. One of his facets was a day job as a physics teacher – so he had first hand experience of developing young minds.

So again and again we recognise the importance of making information fun for children…… and yet for adults, who are actually in the position to make decisions and invest money, we bombard them with extensive brochures and PDFs. Making information fun doesn’t have to be contained in games and gimmicks, but there does need to be a genuine willingness (not just lip service to the small print of public money) to close the knowledge gap and bring the masses to the party.