Research is a vital form of market intelligence for most firms. It helps us keep tabs on how we are doing, what our customers think of us and how we rank against competitors.
But getting it right is no easy task. So we asked Richard Ley, founding director of Research in Finance, to explain how to build the perfect research project.
Tell us a bit about Research in Finance and what you’ve been up to recently.
Research in Finance (RIF) is a market intelligence, publishing and business information provider specialising in the UK and European financial services industries. Our clients are leading providers in the asset management, life company, platform and ratings agency arena and as of 2018 in the insurance market.
The team has expertise across a range of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, conducting everything from brand tracking and segmentation analysis to in-depth interviews, focus groups and online diary projects. We also publish the magazine Professional Paraplanner and organise lots of seminars and conferences under the Technical Insight Seminar banner.
What are the things people should consider when doing research?
- Have a clear objective for the research from the outset and take the time to really scope out the brief.
- What do you see the output looking like? Again, take time to consider who the research will be shared with internally/externally and the format the end result will work best in.
- Methodology – getting this right is critical. Often clients can have an idea in their head of what methodology they’d like to use, but it is important to begin with an open mind (and a great research agency) to ensure the right one is selected.
- One more to consider is quality of data. Many agencies will outsource the actual research using “panel” companies. In our world, if you want to make the right decision for business strategy, you want to ensure the research is conducted with the right people. Working with a company you know has the access to the right people gives confidence in embedding the results into business plans for the future and means the commissioning stakeholder can be strong when challenged.
What are the research/industry trends for the year ahead?
Here at RIF it will be about embedding some new technology and methodologies into our projects. There are numerous new technology platforms that have allowed us to beat any respondent fatigue and draw out deeper, richer insights for our clients.
If you could give one piece of financial advice to a teenage version of yourself, what would it be?
It would probably be to start paying into my pension as soon as I started working. I would have also suggested putting a little less money into fruit machines in the pub as there was only going to be one winner with that investment strategy.
What three things would you do if you were head of the FCA?
Tricky one. I think I’d encourage them to remember that this is a people business and there should be a degree of contact between providers and advisers. I wouldn’t even advocate the “good old days” of lavish trips abroad and there needs to be a line – but as professional, qualified, diligent individuals there shouldn’t be a discomfort with a sensible lunch or coffee.
I would also encourage firms to invest in the future of advice. Granted, I am not sure of the scope of this but there are not enough advisers coming into the industry and the role isn’t as well promoted to school leavers, university graduates etc. The pipeline of advisers is not where it needs to be given the pension freedoms and in particular the trend to remain invested in retirement. My experience is many advisory firms look at clients with £250k+ as a minimum – who is going to support those individuals with smaller pension pots to make good decisions?
I guess my third thought would be to be clear on what the rules are. I hear from many clients and contacts that when asked, the FCA don’t always give a straight answer to a straight question, leaving the questioner none the wiser as to whether they will be in trouble or not.
What is your biggest pet peeve, or makes you angry?
People that have no manners. A please and thank you cost nothing and in my experience many senior people don’t treat everyone with the respect they deserve whatever their role in the business.. Also, those that follow the “do as I say not as I do” mantra.
Now, tell us a little about your life outside of work, do you have any hobbies?
I am a big fan of taking on physical sports challenges to keep fit (and also allow me to eat vast quantities of chocolate). I have run several marathons, rode several multi-stage cycle races and taken part in many triathlons. This year I have gone big and signed up to Ironman Wales, which is by far my biggest challenge to date. I also enjoy a round of golf when I can fit it in. I have two young daughters and spending quality time with them is also great fun.
What is the one column or website that you read every day?
Workwise I tend to be looking at BBC, FT and business pages of the Evening Standard on the commute. I also spend a lot of time on www.professionalparaplanner.co.uk, which is of course absolutely cracking, if I do say so myself. Outside of work, I am on BBC Sport seeing how many more injuries my team Spurs have notched up and I also spend a lot of time on Wiggle looking at “bike stuff” that I’d like to buy.
What would you do if you received a windfall of £10,000?
Probably buy another bike. There is a formula for the number of bikes you should own. N+1.Very simple.