In June, our attention returned to the asset management industry. We published our 1st asset management research report in 2016. Suffice to say the results then were less than ideal. This time around, we wanted to see had anything changed?
What we found in our latest research is not encouraging for anyone wishing to invest their money.
Asset management firms are not promoting trust
Let’s consider the current climate asset management firms operate in.
The financial services industry is experiencing a serious decline in trust, according to the Edelman 2018 Trust Barometer.
In the USA, this decline is 20 points lower than the trust level in previous years. However, the USA is not alone. At least 13 out of the 28 markets surveyed show similar double-digit declines.
The Edelman report goes on to ask “how can financial services companies increase trust”?
The number one answer is simple. Craft easily understood terms and conditions.
The majority of asset management firms are not doing this. Their actions are causing frustration and confusion for their customers. Risk to the firms, and their clients, increases when complex language is used. And most seriously, the trust clients feel in the asset management firm is eroded.
People need to have faith in financial services firms. It’s not an exaggeration to say that a financial services firm doesn’t just hold a person’s money or investments. It holds the individual’s future and their possibilities too.
Regulators are prioritizing trust
Asset management firms aren’t just coming under pressure from their clients. The legislative bodies that regulate the industry are prioritizing trust too.
Regulators understand that clients are consolidating their investments. There is increased competition amongst asset management firms for fewer clients.
A critical strategy to win more business and grow clients is improving customer service through transparency and clarity.
Readability score performers and offenders
We first ran our analysis of the asset management industry in 2016. You can download that study here.
Our 2018 report is a follow-up. We highlight who has improved and who has regressed.
The top firms who have improved their content most notably are:
- BMO Global Asset Management – moved up 49 places to rank 20th overall. The firm’s readability score was 47. While still not at ideal levels, BMO ranked 5th overall for this metric.
- BNY Mellon Cash Investment Strategies and Eurizon Capital – improved 47 and 39 rankings respectively. Content for both firms was strong for low passive voice levels and complex word density scores.
- Nomura Asset Management – improved its rank by 38 places. Scores for all criteria were average, but collectively demonstrated improvements to clarity.
The worst performers are:
- AQR Capital Management fell – 31 places to rank 52nd in the 2018 results. Heavy use of long sentences and complex words likely caused the decline.
- Amundi – fell 26 places to wind up in the bottom five rankings.
- Helaba Invest – fell 25 places. Helaba had very good scores for passive voice and long sentences. But, very poor readability score and complex word use caused the decline.
- Nordea Asset Management – fell 22 places.
How can asset management firms fix the issue?
Relative to other business challenges, the solution isn’t that hard. CMOs and editorial managers in asset management shops must overhaul their communications. These simple writing practices will do it:
- Cut out the long sentences
- Stop using high levels of passive voice
- Use simpler words
- Eliminate all jargon
- Explain technical terms in clear English
They need to conduct web and collateral content audits to prioritize what to fix. The good news is that technology offerings such as VisibleThread are coming on stream. Thanks to AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning, they offer easy ways to score content in bulk (hundreds of documents, thousands of web pages), and maintain clear communications for content authors.
- Our latest research follows from a prior analysis in 2016 when we found that most asset management firms do not use transparent language.
- The most striking of our findings is that the industry still appears to be unable/unwilling to make content more transparent.
- And this is despite GDPR, privacy issues, a trend towards “client first” policy as a differentiator, etc.
- This is an easy-to-fix issue. The language of financial services is too important for society. We all deserve much better. And it really isn’t that hard to do.