Design Thinking & The Fiduciary Rule

How can Financial Services firms prosper in a post-Fiduciary Rule world? Looking at the rule’s potential implications through a design thinking lens can provide insights on best practices for a customer-driven world, especially from experiences in digital channels.

Parts of the Fiduciary Rule are slated to take effect June 9th, with full implementation coming January 1, 2018. There will certainly be more debate and adjustments, but some form of the rule seems likely to be implemented. The concept of acting in a client’s best interest, while on the surface straightforward, could upend large elements of the industry. Customer-centricity, whether regulated or not, has driven recent waves of digital disruption in FinServe. Below are four areas where a human-centered design approach can help shape future success.


Modern consumers crave transparency and will reward organizations that provide it and penalize those that don’t (often via social media). Leaders like Tony Hsieh of Zappos have even incorporated transparency into their corporate values. Conflicts of interest aren’t inherently bad, as long as they’re disclosed and understood. Transparency through education, especially through innovative digital means, is still a great opportunity for brands to distinguish themselves in financial services. A better educated consumer is a confident investor, with the peace of mind that they understand what’s in it for them and their valued advisors.


The “rise of the robo-advisors” can in part be attributed to making investing simpler. They’re not necessarily better or more appropriate for a given investor, just easier to use. And while automation has its advantages, complex financial advice may require the holy grail of an integrated human +  technology solution. Agents, advisors, planners, and pretty much anyone managing clients across financial services can benefit from efforts to simplify and streamline the customer journey, leveraging technology for standardized communication, analysis, and reporting, to make more time available for the human element.


Who owns the customer relationship and the data it generates? Bank, advisor, wealth manager, fund company? A great panel at Morningstar’s 2017 Investment Conference debated the topic and couldn’t come to a conclusion. All play critical roles and believe they should own the relationship (and of course make use of customer’s data).

Perhaps the better question is who owns the customer journey? To which there’s only one good answer: THE CUSTOMER (credit to DJ Edgerton at the NYC CDO Summit). Investors, especially digitally savvy ones, don’t want to be optimized. Open dialogue and clarity on how their data may be used builds trust and long term relationships.


The Fiduciary Rule has already been disruptive to the status quo, especially in the advisory sector. A slew of new product and business ideas have been incubated in 18 months across the industry as potential responses. Change is undoubtedly painful, but the shift to a consumer-driven world has been underway for over a decade. The winners will be those firms already prototyping and testing concepts before the dust settles.  Whether regulatory or market driven, financial services has always evolved in fits and starts. Innovation through human-centered design can be a powerful tool in today’s environment.

Zemoga has been a creative technology partner to leading Financial Services firms for over 15 years.  We’ve helped firms large and small improve their digital marketing, products, sales tools, and customer service experiences. If you’d like to learn more about our proven approach, please reach out.