Recently I’ve found myself looking at D2C platforms. Partly for work stuff and partly because of a nagging feeling that I really ought to be investing in a share class other than Mulberry bags.

While actually looking at the direct to aspect.  I’ve been thinking about the consumers. People who are approaching D2C platforms (and their websites specifically) hoping for enough useful (and accessible) information to make an informed decision on what to do with their hard-earned without having to pay an adviser for the privilege.

After much trawling observations so far include:

  • There are A LOT OF OPTIONS: platforms, levels of service, proposition and (of course)

That’s jargon to the rest of the world and oh, how we love our jargon. Can’t get enough of it. But pity the poor soul trying to pick their way through brokers, investment specialists, share trading, portfolio construction, risk profiling and so on.  

And that’s before we get on to the actual investments. Some people and probably quite a few, will be simply looking to tuck away a few quid in an ISA (or NISA) but several platforms barely mention the word. It’s all about the investment with the wrapper tucked away almost as an afterthought.

I found myself trying to explain some of this to a non-industry bod the other evening. Partly to test my theory about general understanding but mainly as revenge for all the ‘fascinating insight’ I was treated to throughout the winter Olympics. Winter sports had never been mentioned before and have not been since. Still not clear on why I was expected to care for those two weeks.

After several attempts I moved onto D2C investment made very, very simple. Let’s say you were going to buy a bag of magic beans that will (hopefully) flourish and grow and make sure that you have enough to live on when you’re old. After a bit of Googling you find three magic bean websites.

1. A carefully constructed combination of beans; placed in a bag and tied with a ribbon. It’ll cost you a bit more but you don’t have to worry about choosing beans and isn’t that a pretty ribbon?

2. The beans are all there and there is a helpful guide you can work through to pick your own beans. There might be bags (or you might need to bring your own) but you put the beans in the bag yourself. That’s reflected in the price though.

3. Beans. Lots to choose from but after that you’re on your own. Good and cost effective, if you know your magic beans.

He got it at that point. Or pretended to so that I’d stop talking. One of the two anyway.

As an industry we will never, ever get it quite right. Not for everyone and probably not even for the majority. The market with whom we aim to communicate is simply too fragmented across knowledge, assets, priorities and so forth.  

But as long as investors are clear on what they are getting, what they are paying for it and what they can reasonably expect in return, it’s a good start. D2C is traditionally aimed at the more financially savvy and rightly so, but as market growth is fuelled by RDR and Budget 2014, this financially savvy target will no doubt be diluted by less informed consumers. For these, describing what platforms actually offer in terms to which they can relate and then use to confidently make decisions feels like a happily ever after for treating customers fairly.