OpinionMay 1 2013

I’m afraid it’s the end of the line for me

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Mark my words, writing each week for a leading industry publication is a privilege. So why would I give it up? Well, I have been grateful for the opportunity for the past couple of years, but the time has come to hand over to another aspiring scribe.

Each week I have tried to deliver 500 words of (hopefully) fresh, relevant and topical material, but the well is running dry. And I would not want to bore you – well not deliberately.

I set out to be truthful, painfully so sometimes, as a number of your comments attest to. You have generally been supportive and, privately, I have received many emails from people admitting to making the same errors I have made. I do wish there was less bravado around and a touch more honesty about the cock-ups we make.

Another reason for stepping aside is to free up time to finish a book I am writing (how many times have friends and colleagues heard me talk about this book?). At 500 words a week for a couple of years, I must have written 50,000 words. That is a decent size book I think.

The writing process has often been cathartic, but mostly it has been a means of organising my thoughts. It is one thing to have an internal rambling dialogue with oneself. It is another to communicate thoughts and ideas with total strangers through the medium of writing. I have been surprised by the number of times I have been misunderstood, and it has forced me to learn to write with less ambiguity.

I have said it before; we are as much in the communication business as we are the financial advice business. We often need to communicate complex ideas and solutions to our clients, and writing is something we should continually practice and develop. To my knowledge there are no adviser firms with a Crystal Mark issued by the Plain English Campaign. It may be cost that deters firms from applying, but I am of the opinion it is because we do not communicate plainly enough.

Of course it is not only advisers who fail to communicate plainly, a succession of regulators (PIA, FSA and FCA) have also failed to use plain and clear communication. Has there ever been anything so incomprehensible as the regulator’s efforts at disclosure, whether it is charges, status or risk warnings? I mean, why is the total expense ratio not a measure of total expenses? Or why ‘whole of market’ also means someone is ‘restricted’? Restricted to what? The whole of the market? It is completely bonkers.