Tongue-tied, for now

There are not many issues in the financial services industry where a consensus exists. Jargon – or rather the use of it – is one of them.

Over the years there have been many attempts to clean up the use of unwieldy and sometimes downright confusing terms used to describe products or services.

But over the decades, jargon and its use has remained ubiquitous. It has gone on to spawn a whole new industry in itself, employing swathes of compliance experts and even jobbing journalists turned gamekeepers to decipher various terms in the small print accompanying investments and insurance policies.

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If you want to view jargon in its full glory, look no further than the pensions industry.

But could this be about to change?

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) certainly hopes so. This week it published a new guide to pensions language. A guide it claims could end confusing terms such as ‘uncrystallised pension funds lump sum’ and ‘flexi-access drawdown’ or the more informal (read – offputting) phrases such as ‘taking cash’ or ‘chunks’ from a pension.

Co-ordinated by the ABI, with the support of industry, government and consumer groups, the guide aims to make pensions language simple, clear and consistent in order to help customers better understand their options at retirement.

Well, good luck with that one.

Because at the moment jargon, for all its faults, is a necessary evil. It remains the financial services industry’s best attempt so far at explaining what is becoming an increasingly complex subject.

A situation which has not been helped by endless rounds of regulation upon regulation and the legacy which comes with every new taxation regime

The only way jargon will be made redundant, so it can run off into the sunset along with mis-selling and depolarisation, is when things are made simpler all round. Only then will the language reflect the reality of the world we live in.