The financial services industry has been particularly adept at thwarting transparency with respect to its goals, products and processes, keeping customers uninformed or misinformed about the products they sell and the services they provide. As a consequence, we feature money management strategies that aren’t likely to work and routinely don’t work, products with hidden and excessive fees, as well as needless, often counterproductive complexity. We insist that we aren’t really accountable to our customers. We push what is easily sold and what pays us the most instead of what might actually work. We are not anxious to communicate clearly, thoroughly and accurately.
We talk a good game about serving our clients’ interests, but the key goals still generally remain market share, revenue enhancement and the limitation of liability. Our key tool is still misinformation in the guise of disclosure, delivered by snail-mail whenever possible. Efforts to adapt to this new digital transparency with consumer-friendly approaches and strategies are sure to be opposed at every turn by entrenched interests. But as Joel Brenner, former senior counsel at the National Security Agency, noted with respect to the sudden shift in the agency’s operating environment (post Snowden), “Very few things will be secret anymore, and those things which are kept secret won’t stay secret very long.”
Bob Seawright has truly outdone himself with this nuanced and fascinating meditation on how social networks and end of secrecy are upending the murky environments that large-scale institutions require in order to succeed. His conclusion is that the modern, digital version of the Precambrian Explosion may end up selecting for smaller, more nimble organizations rather than the big, lumbering ones that characterized the 20th Century.
Hit the link above to read it all, it’s pretty great.