Spotlight on… Martin Bamford, Informed Choice

In this Spotlight feature, we speak to Martin Bamford, Managing Director of Informed Choice, on his new YouTube channel and how it could help millennials. And could a ‘gym membership for your wallet’ make financial services work better for this age group?

What is the thinking behind your new YouTube channel?

The way we consume information is changing and watching short videos on YouTube is becoming a more popular alternative to flicking through television channels or even binging on Netflix box sets. There’s a huge demand for well-produced, expert led content around personal finance and investing. Despite this being a growth area, there aren’t that many YouTubers covering it at the moment, if you exclude the slimy motivational speakers turned personal finance experts, who have serious credibility issues. I’ve got no expectations in terms of views or subscribers, but believe frequently published short videos answering key financial concerns could attract a decent size audience and help build a community.

What inspired you to set it up?

I’ve been blogging for more than a decade and, for the past three years, hosting a popular audio podcast too. Creating videos for YouTube seemed like the next logical step and completed the mix when combined with writing and audio. I personally consume a huge amount of content on YouTube and have watched a number of new YouTubes gain popularity very quickly. Going back a few years, I spent a year filming and producing a feature length documentary, so I’ve got all of the camera, audio and editing equipment sitting in my office ready to use. It’s also quite a fun project – and I like fun projects!

Can you give us a sneak preview of the sort of topics you’ll be covering/who you’ll be interviewing?

I spent an hour the other day brainstorming a list of the first 100 topics I want to cover. These look at everything from dealing with debt to making better investment decisions. I plan to keep each video relatively short, in the 5-7 minute range, and deliver actionable content that can help make a real difference to people’s financial lives. Interviews and collaborations will come later, once I’ve started to build a decent size audience. I’m blessed with a large black book of contacts who I can work with to develop content in the future.

What are the benefits of using a channel like YouTube to talk about personal finance?

Viewers are actively looking for content on platforms like YouTube; it’s apparently the second largest search engine in the world, after Google. Presenting information and ideas in a video format has the advantage that people get to know you as an individual and to learn a bit more about your personality. This can be hard to get across sometimes in the written word.

Do you think younger age groups – like millennials – will be looking to websites like YouTube in the future for information about personal finance?

Platforms like YouTube and podcasting do tend to attract a younger audience, but not exclusively so. A lot of the videos on YouTube are designed with the younger audience in mind, especially the most popular channels where influential YouTubers have lots of millennial subscribers. The channels I tend to watch most feature personalities of a similar age to mine – the likes of Casey Neistat and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Do you think millennials approach personal finances differently from other groups?

Millennials tend to have different concerns and priorities than other age groups when it comes to money. There tends to be a much greater focus on the basics; issues like budgeting, debt management, saving money to get on the property ladder. Fundamentally speaking, personal financial planning is the same for everyone, but the focus and approach can be tailored to appeal to different groups of people. In our experience, millennials tend to be slightly more cynical when it comes to money management – they want to be sure they are getting unbiased advice and they aren’t going to be ripped off! Before seeking advice, millennials tend to do their homework and a lot of looking around first.

If so, is the industry doing enough to cater to these differences?

I’m not convinced it is! I tend to see the same old traditional approach to delivering financial advice and products, sometimes with a nod to the sort of digital experience preferred by millennials, but fundamentally the same old thing at its core. Looking to the US market, there’s a lot of advisers there who are doing a great job working with younger clients, building a brand new proposition from the ground up that really caters for millennials. The focus needs to be on planning not products, and on the lifestyle and values that millennials find most important. I don’t think traditional product providers here in the UK stand a chance of making this cultural shift anytime soon.

What do you see as the main issues being faced by millennials today as far as financial services are concerned?

Financial services in the UK is still a very product led environment. Even the new digital services are there to sell products, not help with advice or planning. Millennials are naturally suspicious when it comes to sales people and it takes a lot of work to earn (and keep) their trust.

What would you propose as solutions?

I would suggest a combination of a planning led service, akin to a gym membership for your wallet, delivered with a mix of face-to-face contact and online services. It needs to be delivered by younger advisers; not necessarily members of the millennial generation, but certainly not the traditional old white men in suits who are so prevalent in our sector today. What surprises me when I see the money being invested in promoting robo adviser solutions is how little is spent on influencer and digital marketing that would appeal to younger customers and gain their trust.

If you could give just one piece of advice about personal finance, what would it be?

Don’t try to run before you can walk! Get the basics of budgeting, saving and protection in place before you try to do anything fancy with your money.

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