Mike Fotis is the founder of Smart Money People. Launched in October 2014, Smart Money People is on a mission to use people power to help increase trust and transparency in financial services. Prior to Smart Money People, Mike worked as a management consultant, focusing on banking and insurance clients. He is a graduate of the University of Cambridge. He speaks to Blue & Green.
In 140 characters or less – what is Smart Money People?
Smart Money People is a review and insight platform focused on financial services.
What was the driver for creating Smart Money People – what gap did it fill?
As an ex-consultant I could see a dichotomy emerging. Financial organisations are busy looking at ways of treating customers fairly or thinking about how they can grow by being more customer-friendly. But the average consumer has come to see financial services as one big grey block. We’re trying to break this down. We want to better engage people to think a bit more about which providers they want to use. For example, we recently awarded ‘Best British Bank’ to First Direct, while highlighting RBS as the poorest reviewed bank in Britain.
Who does it primarily serve?
Our community ranges from young people looking for information about prepaid cards or a first current account, all the way up to older people looking for information about annuities or travel insurance.
What difference does Smart Money People want to make?
We want to harness people power to help increase trust and transparency in financial services and make it easier for people to drive change.
What are the barriers to making that difference?
The key barrier we face is breaking down that view of financial services on one big grey block. An unhealthy proportion of people see all financial organisations as the same which makes it difficult to engage enough people to drive change.
Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?
New entrants in the financial services industry are a great resource. They are keen to be seen as different, be trusted, and dare I say it, even loved by their customers. They can help to reimagine the industry, but the full impact of this is some years ago. Likewise, we’re running campaigns that help to highlight differences in terms that people can engage with. For example, car insurance policies may all look the same, but some insurers charge you £26 if you need to change your name (for example if you’re newly married), others will make this change with no charge. When put in terms like these, we hope that we can get people to think a bit more about the choices they’re making.
Financial services haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory over the last nine years. What changes need to happen for financial services to restore that reputation and make a positive contribution to the economy, society and the environment?
The truth is that there are a lot of well-intentioned people trying to make financial services better. That said, the size of the task means that there remains a decent bit of road ahead before the industry rebuilds the trust it’s lost in the eyes of many consumers. And while the banking industry in particular is improving, there are a number of black spots when it comes to financial services. A particular area of concern are the practices and lack of transparency employed by companies in the funeral plan industry.
Can you tell us a bit more about the funeral plan industry?
Admittedly, at the age of 27, I hadn’t quite planned to research funeral plans for a while yet. But when we took a look at the market, it’s clear that its core characteristics have helped fuelled some rather dubious practices. These characteristics include high growth (the market size has doubled since 2007), high value sale (funeral plans typically start at £3,500), and lack of regulation (the funeral plan industry does not come under the remit of the FCA). Taken together, a Wild West industry has emerged with transparency and treating customers fairly at best, being an afterthought. For example, what’s included in a funeral plan (and more importantly, what isn’t) could, and should be made a lot clearer. Similarly the total cost of repayments if you don’t want to pay for your plan upfront is often not as clear as it should be.
How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about Smart Money People?
The best way is to write a review and share your experience of financial services with us. By building a large community engaged in making financial services better, we can help to deliver some of the positive change that will strengthen the industry in the long-term, and help the industry to make a better contribution.
A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon
Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.
There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.
1. The Rise Of Smart Windows
When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.
If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.
2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs
If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.
Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.
3. Low-E Windows Taking Over
It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.
They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.
4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges
Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.
The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.
5. Improving Our Current LEDs
Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.
That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.
Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too
Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.
ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244
IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”
IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.
Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.
Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.
Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:
“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.
We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.
There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.
We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”