About the Transparency Task Force
"Fixing Financial Services through the transformational power of transparency"
The Transparency Task Force is the collaborative, campaigning community, dedicated to driving up the levels of transparency in financial services, right around the world.
It is crystal clear that the Financial Services sector is profoundly important to the well-being of society as a whole but for it to achieve its true potential as a positive, enabling, securing, supporting force it needs to be trusted.
Trust is absolutely vital to financial services because the sector deals with intangible offerings that are often future-orientated. Our products, services and solutions very often carry an intent, a promise to deliver, an expectation, a hoped-for outcome of some kind.
Think of the promissory clause printed on banknotes i.e. "I promise to pay the bearer the sum" or words to that effect. The entire financial services industry is built on ideas along the lines of ‘I promise’ and therefore the industry is dependent on trust.
However, for many reasons and in many ways the Sector’s reputation and therefore trustworthiness has been damaged, terribly. Numerous scandals and incidents of malpractice – perpetrated by rogue individuals (think Maxwell, Madoff et al); or dodgy behavior in particular organisations (think Equitable Life, Wells Fargo etc.); or entire parts of the market (think endowment mortgages, transfers out of Defined Benefit pension schemes, PPI and so on); and even complete market collapses that have led to a decade of austerity for innocent people (think the last Global Financial Crisis); have all contributed to the erosion of confidence in Financial Services.
It could be argued that it would be totally rational for the general public to NOT trust the financial services industry because the public have, in effect, been educated to NOT trust financial services through the continuous drip, drip, drip of untrustworthy behaviour over a very long period of time.
Even after the mountains of money that have been spent by Governments (i.e.us taxpayers) on regulation, compliance and enforcement are we any more confident in the Financial Services Sector behaving better now than it did twenty, thirty or forty years ago? The evidence suggests, no, we're not.
This is nothing less than a serious, systemic risk for society as a whole.
Many Governments want to transfer risk from the State to the individual (think retirement provision, healthcare provision and so on) yet the industry that is meant to facilitate this transference of responsibility isn't readily trusted. Perhaps this helps to explain why the UK is currently experiencing a record-breaking low in its savings ratio; it’s the worst it has been since 1963. That’s not good news. In fact, it’s a real worry.
Think what this might mean in decades to come:
Maybe there would be an entire generation that will retire on lower levels of income than the generations that went before them? As a result, might they feel cheated by the system as a whole and the once-trusted institutions in some way? Maybe there’ll be many people too old to work but too poor to retire? Maybe there’ll be youngsters unable to find work because their seniors are still needing to work to generate income? Could this adversely affect the fabric of society that binds us together in a civilised way? In a 'worst case' scenario perhaps there’s potential for inter-generational tensions, and even, in extremis, civil unrest?
Is the world's pensions crisis the very worst manifestation of the lack of trust in financial services?
There are so many 'wild variables' that nobody can be sure how all this will all play out. Nobody knows how society is going to respond to the financial stresses and strains it is likely to be experiencing in years to come - especially given the worryingly high levels of consumer debt and the likelihood of disappointment for many people from their Defined Contribution pension schemes that they may have started too late, contributed too little into, been invested in expensive funds with high and sometimes even hidden costs and charges.
And then there are the millions of people to worry about who aren't making any provision for old age at all.
Whilst these issues are terribly complex and multi-faceted there’s one point that is as simple, straightforward and indubitable as can be - that it would be good if the Financial Services industry was predisposed to behave in a more trustworthy way.
But the harsh reality is that once trust has been lost it is far, far harder to regain than it would have been to have kept on being trusted in the first place. So, those of us that understand the profound importance of having a trustworthy Financial Services sector, who care about helping to achieve good, fair and sustainable outcomes for the people it is supposed to serve, ought to do all we can, together, to rebuild the trust that’s been lost. We should ‘stand up, not stand by’.
However, we can’t make people trust us. All we can do is to collectively behave in a consistently, reliably and predictably trustworthy way. And what can help to do that? - being transparent.
Transparency is important to rebuilding trust.
Transparency is both a cultural and a commercial virtue.
That’s why transparency can drive transformational change.
And that's why we are fast-building our community and sending out a message to everybody and anybody tat if they care about repairing the terribly tarnished reputation of the financial services sector and want to help consumers get better outcomes they should join up - there is no cost or commitment in getting involved.
What would ‘getting involved’ mean?
Well, the Transparency Task Force is the collaborative, campaigning community, dedicated to driving up the levels of transparency in financial services, right around the world.
We seek to harness the transformational power of transparency to drive the change that consumers deserve.
We believe that higher levels of transparency are a pre-requisite for fairer, safer, more stable and more efficient markets being able to deliver better value for money and better outcomes for consumers.
Furthermore, because of the correlation between transparency, truthfulness and trustworthiness, we expect that our work will help to repair the self-inflicted reputational damage the Financial Services sector has been suffering for decades.
The TTF seeks to operate in a collaborative, collegiate and consensus-building way; focusing on solutions not blame.
The Transparency Task Force is unique in being made up of a truly pan-industry cross-section of individuals, trade bodies, thought leaders, academics, professional associations and so on; united by the desire to improve the way the Financial Services industry behaves through harnessing the transformational power of transparency.
As such we are well-placed to establish consensus that does not merely reflect the wishes of one particular ‘tribe’ or another - our purpose is aligned with what is best for the overall well-being of the sector and the markets it serves.
So 'getting involved' means you can help in any way that you want to.
Please get in touch and we'll explore what would work best for you.
Given the enormity of the world's Financial Services sector and the way it continuously evolves it is virtually inconceivable that the task of achieving total transparency throughout all of it will ever be achieved; the task is akin to ‘painting the Forth Bridge’. As such the Transparency Task Force needs be a positive influence for a long, long time – decades in fact. Our journey will be a marathon not a sprint.
The Transparency Task Force therefore needs to create a robust and stable platform on which to build a solid, viable future for it to achieve its full potential as a ‘force for good’ over the long term. Any other approach would put its success in jeopardy and its task is too important for a needlessly risky approach to make any sense at all.
So, we are now working hard on two very important fronts - campaigning for change through whilst also exploring how to best create the stable, secure and sustainable platform we need to be sure that we can achieve our awesome potential as a 'force for good' for the decades ahead.