What makes for a better presentation: simple or sophisticated?

By rwagner20

American Retirement Systems


​The retirement industry, both fixed and investment, has spent countless years and millions upon millions of dollars convincing both the advisor and consumer that in order to retire happily, they must have a complex array of financial products along with the 50-page illustrations required to understand them.

Many products have continued to become more complicated and difficult to compute the exact bottom line benefit to the client. In fact, some product strategies are so convoluted that it’s next to impossible to tell what value there really is on any given day. Complex strategies, long-term point-to-point indexes, fees and a multitude of riders have flooded the market.

This has also resulted in a plethora of new lingo (hype) to go with these complications. “Tactical management," "integrated investment solution," “transformational investment philosophy.” Really? Why don’t we just guarantee the assets the client needs to live comfortably and provide the income they have to have to maintain their lifestyle, if possible? If there are excess funds available after that, we can invest in a conservative, diversified portfolio of dividend-paying equities.

Producers and advisors alike continue to be bombarded with the next best "sophisticated" software and illustration systems available, while most producers and advisors have difficulty operating and understanding the output. If you don’t get it, how can you expect the client to?

See also: Perfect your presentation by keeping it simple

Quite frankly, most of what we see today incorporates hypothetical returns simply because telling the client the truth using current rates just isn't very sexy. This is another reason to stop selling rates and begin selling the solution.

Yet, the top advisors in our industry stick to simple, easy-to-understand presentations that do not require an actuary to validate the numbers and a lawyer to interpret the fine print. These one-page summaries spell out the solutions in an easy-to-understand format.

The numbers presented are real and the results are guaranteed. If the product does better, then that’s just icing on the cake.

I’m often left wondering if trying to come off as sophisticated is a means of validating one's relevance or if it is a by-product of how some advisors make their own purchases. In other words, do you let the way you buy dictate how you sell?

Yes, there is a need for in-depth planning, and sometimes a complicated client needs a complicated solution, but that seems to be the exception, not the norm.

We see far more business being placed using a simple solution than we do using a sophisticated approach. Most sophisticated proposals end up going nowhere and the advisor is left asking themselves, “What happened?" It’s a case of analysis paralysis.