Retire the jargon

The financial sector has taken a bit of a hit recently, with the fallout from the banking crisis and mis-sold PPIs severely damaging its reputation.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), brought in to keep an eye on the use of jargon, over-complexity and misdirection in the industry, has overseen something of an improvement, and positive changes have been made.

 

However, there is always room for improvement, and those trying to understand advice about pensions and retirement planning are finding the information on such subjects as difficult to fathom as ever.

Too often, we get complaints from consumers about financial matters. We can’t expect the general public to understand what ‘customer-facing documentation’ or ‘value proposition’ mean. More well-known terms such as ‘stakeholder’: what does it or can it mean to the investor or policy buyer? And ‘solutions’, a favourite of ours, is used willy-nilly and means, well, what exactly?

The FCA echoes our principle when it suggests that financial organisations should keep the customer at the centre of their communications, which means stating things plainly. Shorter sentences and active verbs would be welcome. If jargon is completely irresistible to those providing financial information, it needs to be fully explained – not added as footnotes (another favourite) but within the relevant text.

Carl Redfern, of Redland Business Solutions, is an independent financial advisor who advises companies on their communication methods, and had the following to say.

“In any communication with a customer who is making a material life choice like pensions and investments, the most important thing is to verify that they’ve understood you.”

He added: “Make the risks clear enough and in simple enough terms for them to understand and assess themselves.”

Ultimately, keep it as simple and straightforward as possible, and get points across without any confusion by repeating them and following them up if needs be – this is, after all, hugely important information.

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