By Scott Ronalds
I’ve read a few interesting books lately on some of the top technology visionaries of our time. They include Paul Allen (Microsoft), Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google) and Steve Jobs (Apple). The books were all good reads (Idea Man, In the Plex, and Steve Jobs), although the Microsoft and Google tomes are a little too technical at times for those like me who know little about programming.
One thing jumped out at me about all of these trailblazers – they are/were extremely passionate about what they do. They’re geeks. They have an eccentric devotion to programming/creating/designing and are so engaged in their trade that nothing else matters to them. They don’t let traditional barriers get in their way, aren’t afraid of failure, and don’t compromise on what they believe in. Along the way, they’ve built some exceptionally cool stuff and changed the way we work and play. And there’s only more to come.
Google and Apple have been successful at developing software and products that are hugely complex at the back-end, yet simple and intuitive for the end user. This is a tremendous accomplishment. It’s something the wealth management industry should try to emulate every day.
Investing has its complexities at the back-end. Financial analysis is akin to the engineering that goes behind search algorithms or touch screen interfaces. Unlike Google and Apple, however, the industry does a poor job of making the user experience simple and efficient. There is no shortage of resources at the back-end (equity analysts, portfolio managers, etc.), but few firms put much thought or effort into making the customer experience simple and understandable.
Investing remains a complex activity to many people because the industry wants it to be perceived that way. It shouldn’t be. Investors don’t need hundreds of choices, undecipherable reporting and non-stop economic forecasts. They need a few sensible fund options, a clear investment approach, and plain-English reporting.
Allen, Page, Brin and Jobs threw out the old blueprint. They brought innovative thinking, fearlessness, simplicity, and a focus on the user experience to the table, with a touch of craziness. We could all use a little more geek in us.