Reports within financial services can often have a reputation for being dry, using IA (incomprehensible acronyms) and being generally unexciting. They also take up a lot of time and resource to complete for the firm.
There are a number of reasons for this – compliance fears, standard wording, risk warnings and simply just wanting to make sure that clients have as much information as possible. But how can we make sure that the end client is getting the right information they need to make an informed decision about their finances while not overwhelming them with reams of jargon?
Templates. Templates are the answer to a multitude of issues in this area. They can be:
- Efficient and consistent.
- Visually appealing.
- Simple and readable.
- Easy to use for the adviser and easy to read for the end client.
Easy to read is a very important point. The whole objective of providing information to the client is so that they can have an understanding of what the adviser is recommending. Did you know that the average adult reading age in the UK is 9 years old? Obviously, this is a wide-ranging statistic, but it is an important one to bear in mind. Would your documentation pass this test?
A recent experiment found that the average reading age required to understand a financial services passage of text was 26. There’s a huge gap between 9 and 26! There are a variety of tools you can use to check the text you are using with clients; one of these is Readability – a site that will analyse your text passage then tell you the reading age required for understanding.
Templates can ensure that the text you are using is compliant, but still simple to understand – the initial review and set up of your in-house templates can be a big piece of work, but it will be so worth it, particularly with the FCA’s new Consumer Duty piece that is coming in July this year. A review of all your client-facing documentation with the above in mind could be a very good start in that direction.
Templates can also ensure that any information that is not necessary for the client at that moment is stripped out and placed elsewhere. Long documents can be very off putting. Having a standard structure where important information is placed up front in a summary will mean that even if the client only reads the first page, they will still have received the information required.
However, it’s not just the content that needs to be considered. Take a moment to think about how:
- The documents are provided to clients. Are they posted? Are they emailed? Are they uploaded to a client portal?
- The information is presented to clients. Is it black and white as the document needs to be cost-effective for printing? Are there images? Is the text engaging?
What is the best way for your clients to access the documentation and how do they prefer to engage with the material? Many people now prefer to access their information digitally – and in bite-sized pieces. Attention spans may not be the way they once were, but this does provide you the opportunity to think outside of the box – how can your documents be more engaging?
Some quick tips:
- Using colour can really highlight certain pieces of information and indicate where a new section has begun.
- Icons with a few words are easier for the eye to digest instead of paragraphs of explanation or headers.
- Diagrams, charts and graphs can break up the text and appeal to people who prefer information in a more visual format.
- Videos (not necessarily of people speaking, but slides with text and diagrams) can be helpful for providing large pieces of standard information.
- Consider interactivity – the ‘gamification’ of important information, such as pressing buttons can help a client to feel more part of what they are reading and likely to engage more with the information.
Finding out what works best for your firm, as well as your clients is important as you will have to complete the set up and perform the ongoing maintenance of any templates. You could also outsource this aspect – allowing you to access different technology, subject matter experts and saving the resource in your firm. However, you also have to consider the possible cost implications and dealing with another firm’s timescales. Whichever way you decide to use templates, there are more advantages than disadvantages of using them – you just have to ensure that you are using them in the right way for you, your firm and your clients.