Asset Management websites are overly complex and confusing

Evelyn Wolf
3 min read

In a study of Asset Management companies’ websites, VisibleThread finds that 98% fail to meet target plain language standards.

Baltimore, Thursday 17th November 2016. VisibleThread, a global leader in content quality management, has released the results of its plain language study of 85 Asset Management firms.

Pressure is mounting for all website content to be clear, concise and relevant. For example, the Plain Language Act of 2010 requires all US Federal agencies to communicate clearly. This is so that the public can understand and use the information. Similar government regulations are also available in the UK, Canada and Australia.

In the global asset management community, this is not a new phenomenon either. The US Securities and Exchange Commission issued a plain English handbook way back in 1998. In 2011, the Financial Times published an article titled “KIIDs fail on use of plain language”. The article explains how asset managers are still using too much jargon in their Key Investor Information Documents (KIIDs).

VisibleThread analyzed up to 100 pages on each of the 85 websites for the following key metrics:

  • Readability – How clear is the content?
  • Passive Language – Active Language speaks clearly. How many sentences are passive?
  • Long Sentences – How many sentences are too long?
  • Word Complexity Density – How many complex, hard-to-understand words does the content contain?

The key findings are as follows:

  • Only 1 website (1.1%) achieved the target readability score of 60.
  • More encouragingly, 12 out of the 85  Asset Management websites analyzed  (14.1%) met the target passive language score of 4%
  • Long sentences abound on Asset Management websites. On some websites, 50% of the sentences contained more than 25 words. Only 1 website met the target score of 5%.
  • Sentence complexity varied greatly among websites. 11 out of the 85 websites (12.9%) actually met or exceeded the target score.

Gilt edged assets versus Bad KIIDs on the block

The clear writing index shows a wide spread of overall scores ranging from 8.25 (good) to 74.5 (poor). This indicates a lack of consistency in adopting and implementing clear writing guidelines. This is despite longstanding, publicly voiced complaints over poor writing in the Asset Management space.

The top 5 Asset Management firms were:

  1. Federated Investors
  2. DIAM International
  3. Boston Partners
  4. Putnam investments
  5. Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec

The bottom 5 Asset Management firms were:

  1. Goldman Sachs Asset Management Int.
  2. Aberdeen Asset Management
  3. Nomura Asset Management
  4. Manulife Asset Management
  5. Standard Life Investments

“The asset management sector has been guilty of using confusing and overly complex language for many years,” said Fergal McGovern, CEO of Visible Thread. “Our research on 85 randomly selected websites shows that asset managers have largely ignored good practice. They continue to confuse website visitors and repel potential customers.”

Realizing cost benefits by improving language clarity allows website visitors to understand key messages. It also allows customers to complete error-free actions online.  Potential clients no longer need to use other channels, such as telephone calls or face-to-face visits, to clarify information.

The fact that such a tiny percentage of Asset Management firms are using clear language is disappointing. Visible Thread’s research shows that, in many cases, improving only one the four key areas will greatly affect overall readability.

Download the full report here:


About VisibleThread

VisibleThread helps executives in large organizations govern content quality with less cost and risk. Communications, marketing and sales teams in diverse industries use our technology to improve many functions, including proposal development, contract review, and brand audits. Our software finds brand compliance, poor readability, and other issues in websites and documents. Unlike consumer-grade analysis tools, VisibleThread processes hundreds of documents and web pages in minutes. Fuelled with greater insights, customers reduce costs and automate manual processes across their organizations. For more information, visit


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