James Coney  

Fight for our right to the English language

James Coney

James Coney

September is always a good time to start a new campaign – in my head it is always been the symbolic (though of course, not the actual) start of the year.

So it is as good a time as any to launch my new fight: to reclaim the English language from the compliance wonks and the legal bureaucrats.

Look around at the world of financial services and you will find it packed with the kind of legalese and dry language that is utterly incomprehensible to most ordinary people.

And it is totally damaging to the industry. Consumers do not understand it, and without keeping it in check it pervades the ordinary parlance of otherwise sensible people.

IFAs, who should be immune to this stuff as they spend a reasonable amount of time with clients, often find it slipping in. It usually occurs after a roadshow with an investment provider.

I recently made an insurance claim after my house was burgled. The loss assessor came round and recorded the crime scene on an iPad.

At every spot he would do a little voiceover: “Evidence of forced entry point, policyholder confirms spouse’s personal handbag was in situ….

“Evidence of disruption to child bedroom, policyholder confirms portable money boxes were in situ…” and so on.

There are two reasons why we seem to have become so indoctrinated by this rubbish.

A former colleague is now working for one of the big banks and he explained to me that his job is to bust the jargon that has become utterly ingrained in the culture of this gigantic business.

He explained that after the financial crisis the banks – and insurers, financial advisers and regulators – became so het up about the fears of litigation and ensuring that they were doing the right thing that every product, every advert, every press release had to be run through compliance first.

Unfortunately the wonks in compliance seem to be permanently locked away in dark rooms with little grasp for how ordinary people communicate.

It means that when you get an insurance policy it is riddled with small print. My life cover runs to 30 plus pages – of course I cannot read all this, not least because most of it makes no sense whatsoever.

I have seen dozens of mis-sold annuities because the wording of the policy was too technical, and stacks of life cover payments refused because of complicated wording – not because they were too simple.

The other reason for the rise of this financial flim-flam is because of marketing departments. They have been allowed to stick out adverts that are mostly meaningless and packed full of empty language such as: “Making your next move a great move.” Eh?

Ironically, none of the causes of the financial crisis were anything to do with customer policies or confusion over adverts. Nobody accidentally borrowed 125 per cent of their mortgage because the policy was not written correctly.