Given a diversity of cultural backgrounds, it seems that some managers may favor more communal interactions within relationships than would be desirable by the typical American firm. With the drastic increase in global business, it is important to understand that our expectations for relationships may not apply to business partners from other cultures.
In a nutshell, Dr. Lund and his colleagues found that fairness is most important in cultures that are highly avoidant to uncertainty. Of five different cultural dimensions, uncertainty avoidance accounted for the majority of variation across countries in the importance of fairness. Findings also show that increased exposure to diverse cultures through business relationships enhances the importance of fairness.
Imagine sitting in an investment broker’s office with the intent of getting information about investment products that you had been putting off, until now. With retirement looming in the not too distant future, you want to make sure you and your wife can settle into the easy life. You soon notice the agent pulling some papers out of her drawer and anticipating the worst, you brace yourself for the impending sales pitch with a mental reminder to be wary of the “hard sell” that is soon to come. Unfortunately, this is all too common an occurrence in the financial services industry, which has been criticized for a lack of transparency with regard to risks, fees, and the general opaqueness of the information supplied to customers. At issue is the asymmetric information imbalance between the financial agent and the customer. Agents know their products well, but many individual consumers may find it difficult, costly and confusing to obtain information on the thousands of financial products available. Such an information imbalance may encourage divergent risk-seeking behaviors by commission-based agents, particularly when recommending no-load and load mutual funds. A no-load mutual fund is one in which the agent does not make a commission on the “sale;” whereas a mutual fund that carries a load, is one in which a consumer pays an upfront fee, or commission, upon purchase.Dr. DeCarlo and his colleagues address this general issue by investigating the following questions:
- What factors trigger consumer suspicion when interacting with financial agents?
- How does consumer product knowledge affect the way financial agents should interact with consumers?
- Does the agent’s compensation on a financial recommendation, if disclosed, affect consumers in some way? If so, how?