Some might argue that this is a rather dramatic headline for a blog post. Maybe, but the sentiment is right as there is clearly an urgent need for change. And that change is the critical need for the investment industry to be more human.
When we set up Oyster, we wrote our values, the things we care about and want to embed from day one. We have five but the one that matters for this point is ‘Clarity’ – in our brand statement we say ‘we don’t believe in jargon or fancy management terms. We promise to only speak in plain English – from our written words to our pricing.’
Sadly, there is an obvious lack of clarity across the investment industry – often what we read in marketing materials is unclear, lacks transparency and is full of jargon. Much of the sentiment is internally focused and takes little notice of the underlying investor or client.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to over dramatize this, but it strikes me that with clarity and transparency, our industry will be better off in the long term. It would mean clients see firms as authentic, which in turn will help to build back trust, in a world where trust is very limited (assuming of course - as someone said to me this week - that you can associate the word trust with business at all – a topic for another day).
The good news is there are some great examples of where improvements are being made. Look at the population of sustainable and responsible investors for example. Every fund manager I know in this space will talk about the importance of being transparent and fair with their underlying investors – that is at the core of their culture. Another example is the recently formed WealthiHer network in the wealth management industry. The network’s aim is to improve the way wealth managers work with female clients – they talk about treating people as humans, avoiding jargon and educating while not being patronising. And happily, there are other examples where individuals and companies have actively supported an improvement in financial education.
But for every great example, there are a host of horrible ones. We still see ‘white papers’ and ‘thought leadership’ that are riddled with jargon and lacking in clarity. Be honest, how many of us have started to read one of these pieces, only to then re-read the same paragraph four times because it’s simply not engaging, or too convoluted? Even those firms with the best intensions sometimes get it wrong. Just the other day, I read a self-confessed educational brochure which promised to avoid jargon, yet in the second paragraph referred to ETFs with no explanation. For this article, it doesn’t matter what an ETF is – the point is that even those with the best intentions to educate and avoid jargon often still get it wrong.
I think the problem is we are prone to forget that there is a human at the other end and instead focus on what people internally will think and approve. Be it an institutional investor or Mrs Miggins – it doesn’t matter. The way we communicate needs to be improved and quickly. If we don’t do something now, then I fear the trust in our industry will never be rebuilt. Now is our chance to embrace meaningful change. Hence the revolution!
So, there it is – our purpose, our raison d’etre. We want to promote transparency and clear communication, in a way that engages the audience, not befuddles them. As independent advisers, we believe we are in a strong position to see through the clutter, inspire and make a meaningful difference.
If you agree, disagree or simply want to see where we might be able to add value to your business then please get in touch.