In a world of change, not everything has to

By David Penney

We are currently living in an age of technological revolution that is unprecedented in the history of mankind.

The sheer speed of change with billions of people connected by mobile devices, unlimited access to knowledge and emerging technologies ranging from artificial intelligence to 3-D printing is creating a future that even a decade or so ago was almost unimaginable.

For business owners, this so-called fourth industrial revolution will inevitably offer a wealth of opportunity as the next generation of technological innovation transforms how we work, live and almost certainly how we think.

We are living in an era where it is impossible to stand still with businesses having to work increasingly hard to stay at the right end of the curve and ensure they can continue to compete in an ever-changing world.

But for all the innovation and opportunity, one of the biggest challenges facing businesses is not exploring how it can change but understanding where it needs to stay the same.

The pressures to continually evolve is certainly nothing new – since the advent of steam, then electricity and most recently the computer, businesses have been successfully adapting to change.

Over its 20 years or so of existence, Penney Financial Partners has been through its own evolution and like many, our business today is very different to the one that first opened its doors two decades ago.

It has been a journey of change that has accelerated significantly over the past couple of years as we have responded to the challenges of the pandemic and embraced the digital reality of the modern world.

Over the past months we have launched a new website, sent almost 30 video updates to our clients and prospects, hosted or been involved in more than a dozen webinars, started our own podcast and posted more than 100 times with several thousand engagements across our social media platforms.

We have also launched a range of new digital tools to support enhance the client experience, from the Client Advice Portal that allows us to engage with our clients remotely to the use of cash flow modelling software that can be transformative for clients in helping them develop long term financial plans.

It has been an incredibly exciting period that has undoubtedly added a new dimension to our business and our brand, allowing us to remain connected to our clients during these uncertain times while also enabling us to get our message out to a completely new audience.

However, while we are continually looking at where the next opportunity may lie that will either enhance our client experience or help build our market presence, we are also conscious that there are some things that we do that remain as relevant today as they ever have, irrespective of their origins in a more analogue world.

For example, despite the huge increase in digital client communications over the past 18 months, we continue to send out our printed newsletter to clients twice a year.

In a world increasingly dominated by all things digital, the newsletter could easily have been seen to be surplus to requirements and there was certainly a debate as to whether it was compatible with our decision to become a carbon neutral business in 2021.

However, we have continued to send out the newsletter (on recycled and recyclable paper with plant-based ink) and each time we send the newsletter we get a fantastic response from our clients.

The newsletter’s success will certainly in part be down to the demographic of the recipients, but I really do believe that there is more to it than that.

Firstly, with so much of the world becoming increasingly paperless, our business included, receiving something of value in the post has become something of a comparative rarity.

The advantage of this is that most people will open every piece of post they receive and while it may not receive their undivided attention, it is always opened and for anyone who works predominantly in the virtual world, this is certainly half the communications challenge.

The reality is that even though many of us spend the majority of our time in the digital space, we do think differently about print than we do about digital.

According to a recent study by neuroscience researchers at Temple University, there is an undeniable difference in the way the brain processes advertising for instance, depending on whether it is delivered in print or digitally.

The study examined eye tracking and biometric measurements to gauge initial reactions and while digital adverts were processed more quickly and the same amount of information was absorbed from both adverts, there were significant differences in the lasting impact of each advert on the viewer.

Reviewed a week after seeing the adverts, the viewer had a greater emotional response to the physical advert, better recall of the detail and there was more brain activity in the areas of the brain associated with value and desire. 

In a world where what was once science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact, the printed newsletter may seem like something of an anachronism but for me it is a small but important example of the importance of ensuring that the tail doesn’t always wag the dog.

Technology has already transformed our business for the better and we are excited about how it can support us to become even more effective in the future but we must never forget that for all the rapid change, some things will always be better just as they are.

The Partner Practice is an Appointed Representative of and represents only St. James's Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) for the purpose of advising solely on the group's wealth management products and services, more details of which are set out on the group's website The 'St. James's Place Partnership' and the title 'Partner' are marketing terms used to describe St. James's Place representatives.

Penney Financial Partners is a trading name of Penney Financial Partners Ltd. Penney Financial Partners Limited is registered in England and Wales, Number 09964340. Registered Office: Kensington House, Knights Way, Battlefield, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY1 3AB, UK