There are many old expressions that deal with authenticity and whether or not there are backup guarantees. “Put your money where your mouth is” immediately comes to mind. While this saying may seem corny and old-fashioned, there is some truth to the need to see actions backing up words, especially when it comes to financial brand beliefs.
It is no different for companies. When a company creates a mission statement or profession of values, 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 their clients’ wealth and retirement prospects.
So before you get involved with any financial brand either for your personal or business finance, do your research. Make sure what they claim is accurately reflected in their products and other activities as a company.
1. Look into funding and affiliation with non-profit organizations
While the process can take a lot of research, you can also research which non-profit organizations a financial brand has joined.
For example, Experian has marketed itself as a champion for average consumers who want their financial literacy and success. Rather than claiming that their products live up to that mission, they have taken steps toward financial literacy that do not directly benefit them. Jump$tart Coalition is a non-profit organization that Experian has seen both promoted and officers on the board of directors.
“Our approach cannot be one-size-fits-all. There must be a continuous effort. As an industry, we must collaborate and create educational programs that resonate with young children and adults during life’s learning moments – whether that be saving for college or buying a home. Financial education and financial literacy must start at an early age; more investment must be made in our youth. And organizations, such as the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, have taken the lead. for more financial education at schools, creating standards of personal financial literacy, hosting a library of financial education resources,” said Rod Griffin, Experian’s Senior Director of Education.
Sometimes a company professes certain values and beliefs, but does not spend money or time on those efforts. Alternatively, they can go directly against their perceived mission. It could be a case where a financial company claims to value providing affordable financial guidance and advisory services to individuals of all income levels. But in practice, lower-income customers may experience a much poorer level of service compared to their higher-earning counterparts.
2. Assess the purpose of rebranding
Rebranding is something that is becoming increasingly common among companies across all industries for several reasons. Sometimes a more valuable or memorable one Company Name acquired or suddenly become available. Sometimes the product line is expanded, specialized or the focus changes drastically. Other times, the company’s core beliefs have been revised to convey a new mission statement and path to future activities.
There’s nothing wrong with rebranding as long as it comes from a place of stability and logic. When it comes to supporting core beliefs, however, it’s appropriate to scrutinize a company’s rebranding efforts.
First, how many times has the company rebranded? If it happens often, that’s a huge red flag. Not only does it paint a picture of general mismanagement, but it also suggests that the company’s purported core beliefs may be weak. If a company changes its mission statement or focus frequently, its core beliefs may be merely attempts to jump on the latest trend.
If a shift in core beliefs is intentional and sincere, the rebranding process should have a sense of purpose. There will also often be a change or growth that will require the company to present itself in a new way. When rebranding is the result of “what we’re doing isn’t working, so we’re going to try something else,” core beliefs are likely an afterthought.
In case of Clearly digital, growth and expansion from a niche industry necessitated a rebranding. And in the case of this company, it made sense mainly because their service helps other companies with rebranding procedures.
“What started as a niche web design agency has now grown into a full-service digital agency based in Silicon Valley, providing solutions for the world’s most recognizable B2B brands,” said Valod Amirkhanian, co-founder and director of technology at Clear Digital . “We are proud to be leaders in providing creative solutions for innovative clients. Our new name more clearly represents that vision.”
3. Compare established reputation with current practices
There are instances where companies create reputations that overshadow any progress or changes that take place after that reputation is established. It could be a matter of an industry shift, process change, or specialization within their field.
Decades ago, for example, Quicken was a major competitor to QuickBooks accounting software. Today, Quicken software still exists. However, its use has declined and Quicken as a brand is mostly known for something completely different: mortgage loans. But someone operating on decades-old information may not be aware of the shift.
But evolution in companies 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 shields what they actually do, they may not see a need to.
Here’s a theoretical example. What if a financial company was founded by designing a platform that helps individuals create a well-rounded investment portfolio that can withstand market volatility? If this financial brand thinks their product should protect retirement of people against economic fluctuationstheir service lines must support these core beliefs.
And perhaps their reputation was established early on because they did just that. But maybe after a few years they started making more money with more risky financial methods. Perhaps, to appease some of their industry partners, they’re starting to recommend portfolios that are less diversified and more prone to extreme wavering. In such a case, you need to look beyond their founding reputation and compare it to how they actually operate.
4. Check reliable reviews
Reliable reviews are hard to find these days. Any financial company with good financing is probably trying to get as many as possible enabling favorable mentions and reviews online. Also, those same companies could use search engine optimization strategies to bury unfavorable reviews deep in search results.
So where can you go for an unbiased assessment of a financial brand and its beliefs? If review websites or online blogs are unreliable, who will truthfully talk to you about their experience?
The first place to reach out is in your circle of peers. If you are a business owner, hopefully you have built a quality system of relationships in your field and in adjacent fields. Or even if you have friends and relatives who have used different financial providers, get in touch.
You may worry that you are bothering others and wasting their time asking for their opinion. But here’s something to remember: in general, people like to have opinions. And the nice thing about having opinions is that it’s especially satisfying to share them. That goes doubly when it comes to recommending a product or provider that hasn’t met their standards.
Additional ways to research financial brands
In the event that your immediate circle of peers or acquaintances does not have useful information, you can always ask the question within forums. And don’t worry, you don’t necessarily have to go down the Reddit rabbit hole to get a response.
Most industries have professional organizations that you can apply to join. In the world of CPAs, one professional organization is AICPA. Membership in AICPA, like many organizations, includes the ability to access member forums. There, a CPA can ask questions about a financial brand and others’ experiences with it to learn more about its core beliefs.
Using a specialized forum like this serves two purposes. First, it is a members-only forum, which is why companies would have a hard time manipulating results and responses. Second, anyone answering is in a similar field and would therefore have similar expectations and needs from the brand.
If a CPA is trying to determine which tax filing software company to use, AICPA members would have a plethora of information. Perhaps the brand they’re looking at claims to be committed to providing seamless software patches throughout the season. On a forum of an organization with large members, there will certainly be countless people who have experience with it all financial software. It should be fairly easy to reach a consensus on whether or not the brand is fulfilling its professed beliefs and priorities.
Beyond the face value
Brands can express a certain set of values and beliefs. However, it is not self-evident that they support them with action. But when it comes to confidence in where you spend your money and the 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.
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