The Plain English campaign have long been fighting to end the gobbledegook of the financial services industry.
From mortgages to pensions, savings to loans, everyone has to engage with financial services at some point in their lives. Despite this, they're often one of the most unapproachable tasks we have to do. I don't know about you but I dread having to head into the bank, compare account interest rates, or make any kind of decision about my pension. And I'm someone who engages fairly regularly with aspects of the FS industry in my current job.
With only 40% of children aged 7–17 saying they have learned about managing finances at school or college (MAS) it's no wonder the world of money is a daunting one. So what can banks, life cos etc. do differently?
Tim Harford, in this piece, argues in favour of the Bank of England writing more clearly, transparently and succinctly . The wider financial world needs to do more of this too. In order for people to have independent, autonomous control of their finances, whilst making informed decisions, they have to understand it. Less jargon, less legal speak, and less wordy sentences. Keep it to the point.
Of course this kind of change has to come from governing bodies, or organisations will always try and cover themselves legally. The FCA have stepped up to the challenge in recent years, addressing consumer education in a number of their consultations. And we've seen banks take this on board, as consumers are less and less stumped with a dreaded wall of T&Cs, with some banks even turning them into bite-sized Q&As.
More still needs to happen. It's likely to be a long and arduous process. But with an ageing population, the death of gold plated pensions and unattainable housing prices, younger people need to be in control of their finances in order to have any hope of a comfortable lifestyle and retirement.
In the meantime, I'm going to try and grit my teeth and wade through the finglish to understand more.
Mr Fullwood’s analysis uses statistical measures of writing complexity: long words, long sentences and long paragraphs make for more difficult prose. The Cat In The Hat stands at one end of the scale; Bank of England reports stand at the other. Mr Fullwood suggests that this complexity is not a good thing – and his work has been praised this week by Minouche Shafik, who recently left the Bank of England to run the London School of Economics. We economists should write simpler, clearer prose if we want anybody to pay attention to what we think.