There are many old phrases that deal with authenticity and whether results are guaranteed or not. “Put your money where your mouth is” immediately comes to mind. While this saying may sound corny and old-fashioned, there is some truth to the need to see actions backing up words, especially when it comes to the beliefs of financial brands.
It’s no different for businesses. When a company creates a mission statement or values profession, we as consumers want to know if those statements are true. This is especially true for financial brands, as they can have a huge impact on the wealth and retirement prospects of their customers.
So before committing to any financial brand, whether for your personal or business finances, do your research. Make sure what they claim is accurately represented in their products and other activities as a company.
1. Review Nonprofit Funding and Affiliation
While the process may involve a lot of research, you can also review which nonprofits a financial brand has aligned with.
For example, Experian presented itself as a champion for average consumers increasing their financial literacy and success. Rather than claiming that their products fulfill this mission statement, they have taken financial literacy steps that do not directly benefit them. Jump$tart Coalition is a non-profit organization that Experian has both promoted and seen leaders serve on its board of directors.
“Our approach cannot be one-size-fits-all. There must be an ongoing effort. As an industry, we must come together and create educational programs that resonate with young children and adults during teachable moments. life, whether it’s saving for college or buying a home. Financial education and financial literacy need to start at an early age; more investment needs to be made in our youth. And organizations like the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy have led the charge – pushing for more financial education in schools, creating standards for personal finance literacy, hosting a library of financial education resources,” said Rod Griffin, Senior Director education at Experian.
Sometimes a company professes certain values and beliefs, but does not spend money or time on these efforts. Alternatively, they could directly defeat their supposed mission. This could be a case where a financial company claims to value providing affordable financial mentoring and counseling services to people of all income levels. But in practice, customers in lower income brackets may experience vastly lower levels of service than their higher-paying counterparts.
2. Assess the purpose of the rebrand
Rebranding is something that is increasingly common for businesses in all industries for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a more valuable or memorable business name has been acquired or has suddenly become available. Sometimes the product line expands, specializes or drastically changes focus. Other times, the company’s core beliefs were revised to convey a new mission statement and a new path to future operations.
There’s nothing wrong with switching brands as long as it comes from a place of stability and logic. However, when it comes to safeguarding core beliefs, careful consideration of a company’s rebranding efforts is in order.
Brand change frequency
First, how often did the company rebrand? If this happens frequently, that’s a huge red flag. Not only does this paint a picture of general poor management, but it also suggests that the core beliefs held by the company might be weak. If a company changes its mission statement or focus often, its core beliefs could simply be attempts to jump on the latest trend.
If a change in core beliefs is intentional and sincere, the rebranding process must have meaning behind it. Additionally, there will often be changes or growth that have caused the business to present itself in a new light. When the brand change is the result of “what we’re doing isn’t working, so we’ll try something else,” the core beliefs are likely an afterthought.
In the case of Clear Digital, the growth and expansion of a niche industry necessitated a rebranding. And in the case of this company, it was particularly useful since their department assists other companies in rebranding procedures.
“What started as a niche web design agency has now grown into a full-service Silicon Valley digital agency providing solutions for the world’s most recognizable B2B brands,” said Valod Amirkhanian, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Clear Digital. “We pride ourselves on being leaders in delivering creative solutions to innovative clients. Our new name more clearly represents this vision.”
3. Compare established reputation to current practices
There are instances where companies create reputations that overshadow any progress or changes that occur after that reputation is established. It can be a change of sector, a change of process or a specialization in their field.
For example, decades ago Quicken was a major competitor to QuickBooks accounting software. These days, the Quicken software is still around. However, its use has declined, and Quicken as a brand tends to be known for something completely different: mortgages. But someone operating on decades-old information may not be aware of the change.
But business evolution is not exclusive to product lines and specialization. So if a company is known for certain core beliefs, they may no longer practice what they preach. And if they have a long-standing reputation that protects what they actually do, they might not see the need for it.
Here is a theoretical example. What if a financial company was founded by designing a platform to help individuals create a well-balanced investment portfolio resistant to market volatility? If this financial brand believes its product should protect people’s retirement against economic fluctuations, its service lines should support those core beliefs.
And maybe their reputation was established early on as doing just that. But maybe after a few years they started making more money through riskier financial methods. Perhaps to appease some of their industry partners, they are beginning to recommend portfolios that are less diversified and more prone to extreme swings. In such a case, you need to look beyond their founding reputation and compare it to their actual operation.
4. Check trusted reviews
Reliable reviews are hard to find these days. Any financial company with good funding is probably trying to get as many mentions and favorable reviews online as possible. Additionally, these same companies might be using search engine optimization strategies to bury negative reviews way down in search results.
So where can you go for an unbiased opinion on a financial brand and its beliefs? If review websites or online blogs aren’t trustworthy, who will honestly tell you about their experience?
The first place to reach out is among your circle of peers. If you are a business owner, you have hopefully established a system of quality relationships with your field and adjacent fields. Or even if you have friends and family members who have used various financial service providers, reach out to them.
You may be afraid of disturbing others and wasting their time by asking their opinion. But here’s one thing to remember: in general, people like to have opinions. And the fact of having opinions is that it is particularly satisfying to share them. This doubles when it comes to recommending a product or vendor that has failed to meet their standards.
Other Ways to Research Financial Marks
In case your direct circle of peers or acquaintances does not have useful information, you can always ask the question in the forums. And don’t worry, you don’t necessarily have to go down the Reddit rabbit hole to get an answer.
Most industries have professional organizations you can apply to join. In the world of CPAs, one professional organization is the AICPA. Membership in the AICPA, like many other organizations, includes the ability to access member forums. There, a CPA can ask about a financial brand and others’ experiences with it to learn more about their core beliefs.
Using a specialized forum like this serves two purposes. First, this is a members-only forum, so companies would have a hard time manipulating the results and responses. Second, anyone responding is in a similar field and would therefore have similar expectations and needs of the brand.
If a CPA is trying to figure out which tax preparation software company to use, AICPA members will have a plethora of information. Maybe the brand they’re looking at claims to be committed to seamless software patching throughout the season. On a forum of a large member organization, there are likely to be many people who have first-hand experience with any financial software. It should be fairly easy to get consensus on whether or not the brand lives up to its beliefs and priorities.
Beyond face value
Brands can express a certain set of values and beliefs. However, it is not certain that they support them with action. But when it comes to knowing where you spend your money and what expectations you have in return, it matters. So do your research, use critical thinking, and make sure the financial brands you research have beliefs that truly align with your values and needs.
The post Gauging Authenticity: How to Tell if Financial Brands Are Backing Up Their Core Beliefs appeared first on Due.