A Family Genie Spell for the Full Moon

In the Mid-Autumn Festival month, mooncakes show up often on my social feed. Year after year, no matter how different and innovative the flavors would be, the mooncakes would be consistently round to signify the full moon in the night sky. For the Asians celebrating the festival, the full moon represents harmonious family reunions and prosperity. This representation is too important to be trifled with.

The linkage between family harmony and wealth features strongly in the Asian culture. A traditional Chinese saying even describes that the family harmony is the basis of prosperity. Family harmony cannot be sustained on conflict avoidance. Unspoken resentment has its way of rearing its ugly head. Instead the harmony must be built on the conscious and collective effort to approach and align on difficult topics such as money and life goals. Considering how a family is an unit of individuals with own motivations, interests and concerns, attaining the harmonious state is a family journey.

The journey may well start with creating a shared understanding of experiences. While it may be easy and pleasant to create shared memories, it is understanding each other’s unique experiences that brings family members closer together. Life events are valuable triggers. Every family member creates his or her life milestones. A child’s first test experience is as important as a teenager’s receiving his first paycheck from a holiday job. Understanding each other’s experience is not an intuitive process. The human tendency to judge and dismiss, especially if communication styles are authoritarian or parenting styles over-protective, kills conversations and even trust. However if done right, the family conversations to support each other’s milestones are opportunities for the members to reflect, guide and learn together. A shared identity forms.

Family members’ roles must be fluid to create the family’s shared identity. Allowing their child to create own experiences with an arm’s length guidance would require the parents to evolve their role gradually from being caregivers to peers over the child’s life stages. Traits and habits that are associated with financial success, such as resisting impulsive behavior and having savings discipline, stick for a lifetime if learnt with guidance from own experiences.

Material topics like money and life goals are ideal areas to operationalize. In 360F, we once had an undergraduate intern whose parents entrusted him with the family’s investment portfolio, mainly to let him learn while maintaining financial prudence. The current flagship product, Multi-Generation Investment Genie, facilitates a shared financial experience within the family by enabling a Netflix-inspired platform of investment and protection planning.

If the wish-granting Genie does appear, it would be wiser to ask for the means to cultivate family harmony for future prosperity than a winning lottery ticket.

Spotlight: The Secret Revolutionaries

A particular customer segment has been rising in prominence. This group of people seeks to define themselves, independent of what the society prescribes. If this is the fourth industrial revolution we have just recently entered, then these people are the beneficiaries, movers and shakers, also known as the “secret revolutionaries” in an experience-driven society[1].

I note some worthy examples to showcase how businesses are catering to this segment.

Travel Immersions

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Source: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/host/experiences

Airbnb recognizes that its customer base is not necessarily and primarily motivated by cost. A portion of its customers pines for an authentic travel experience to learn about the local culture. It is more than just about creating a personal itinerary. It is the desire to immerse oneself in the foreign environment while remaining true to one’s intrinsic motivations. A traveler driven by the need for physical activities is able to sign up for a local high intensity experience as easily as someone driven by idealism and wants to fight for a social cause.

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Source: https://www.withlocals.com/experiences/vietnam/ho-chi-minh-city/

At the first glance, the trend looks like the result of the wish for a personalised experience. When we delve deeper into the propositions, we notice how these customers are actually keen on having human guides whose role and qualifications have evolved in this economy. The acceptance of the peer-to-peer marketplace model means that businesses such as Withlocals can connect locals with travelers easily. The locals provide not only the translation help, but also the assurance to let the travelers enjoy a local and unique experience.

Design Immersions

That the journey is an accompanied one should make us curious and ask if the secret revolutionaries are perhaps not self-confident or self-sufficient. A start-up business Modsy gives the hint.

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Source: https://www.modsy.com/

Modsy operates on the premise that customers are capable of expressing themselves but limited by self-confidence and experience. According to the CEO of Modsy, “We feel that people are innately talented, creative and have their own unique tastes and opinions”. To overcome the limitations, Modsy separates creativity from craft[2], providing personal style profiling, visualisations and a purchase ecosystem to empower the customers from the beginning to the end of conceptualisation and design.

Lessons for the Financial Services Industry

The secret revolutionaries want to co-create value with businesses. They are intelligent and participative but would appreciate that businesses help raise their confidence and make up for their lack of experience. They want to pursue hands-on activities but organisers who understand only the literal meaning of “hands-on” create an irksome experience. The hearts and minds must be engaged.

The financial services industry has to develop a granular understanding of its customers – are so many customers truly disinterested in advisory or can it be that by engaging a segment in respect of their values, they would be motivated to pursue a holistic financial planning? Can it be that they distrust the industry because they cannot visualise intangible products or have not understood the fundamentals of risk? If taking a personal finance course in school has no impact on savings behaviour and financial literacy[3], how can the industry help people immerse to learn?

[1] The Personalities by USM Book. Hatje Cantz Verlag. October 2015.

[2] https://www-forbes-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.forbes.com/sites/brucekasanoff/2017/04/21/this-company-is-designed-to-bring-out-the-hidden-talents-of-its-customers/amp/

[3] http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/07/financial-literacy