Our Teams of Volunteers

In the Beginning

 

Way back in 2015, in the early days of establishing our collaborative, campaigning community, it had become crystal clear that there was much wrong in financial services that desperately needs fixing.

 

Conversation after conversation was about topics such as:

 

  • Conflicts of interest
  • Regulatory capture
  • Hidden costs
  • Hidden risks
  • Opportunistic opacity
  • Opportunistic obfuscation
  • Vested interests
  • Short-termism
  • Scalping
  • A general lack of client-centricity
  • Skewed incentives
  • Asymmetries of information
  • Scams and scandals
  • Gouging
  • Rent extraction
  • Malpractice
  • Egregious abuses 
  • Reputational damage
  • Camouflage through contrived complexity
  • The trust deficit; and so on.

 

Even right-of-centre politicians were expressing a need for the interests of the consumer to be put ahead of the needs of the City; for the sake of the consumer and the long-term well-being of the City.

 

Furthermore, consensus was forming that ‘transparency’ was far more than just a powerful watchword; it was a zeitgeist that could drive the change that the consumer deserves and the reputation of the sector desperately needs.

 

The idea of the Transparency Task Force becoming an agent for positive change gained traction quickly and more and more ethically-minded financial services professionals were being attracted to its aims and objectives.

 

They felt comfortable aligning with the idea that despite the obvious challenges to be overcome, despite the many vested interests at play in the market and despite all the conflicts of interests the Sector is riddled with, it would be better to try to do something than no bother at all.

 

It felt instinctively, intuitively and insightfully right that an informal but increasingly influential forum could make a difference; especially if it were always guided by the ‘North Star’ question: “What’s best for the consumer?”

 

From an operational, management and leadership perspective the task at hand was about figuring out the best way to channel into tangible outcomes the goodwill, energy, camaraderie and support being kindly offered by the amazing people that were coalescing around our collaborative, campaigning community. 

 

The key question became:

 

"How can we prevent what was being formed from just becoming a ‘talking shop’ and a ‘whinge-fest’?"

 

It was time to visualise, conceptualize, organise and mobilize; and that meant forming teams of like-minded people united by common interests, a desire to make a difference and a willingness to work together. The idea was simple - each team would focus on a particular set of problems. People with relevant subject-matter expertise who felt strongly about particular issues gravitated towards these teams and the teams started to grow; both in terms of the numbers of people involved and the momentum being generated.

 

We started off with a handful of teams, with each team meeting on a monthly basis, in London. The rooms we used for those meetings were very kindly provided by organisations who gave us their facilities at no cost. That was crucial because we didn’t have any resource whatsoever (and we still don’t – it’s clear that we’re far better at campaigning than we are at business, but that's another story).

 

The organisations that kindly helped at that crucial time were:

 

 

Looking back, had their support not been given so generously it would not have been possible to quickly create the sense of identity, purpose and team-spiritedness that was necessary for our new, volunteer-based organisation.

 

About the TTF Teams

 

We believe that those of us who truly care about the importance of the Financial Services sector and the people it serves can, and should, work together to help put things right.

 

Our call to all experienced, right-minded financial services professionals is ‘Let’s stand up, not stand by’; and despite the enormity of the challenge let’s take heart from the famous Margaret Mead quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has".

 

The response to our clarion call for people to volunteer to help has been profoundly positive.

 

We started with fewer than 20 volunteers all in the UK but we now have over 250, in 10 countries; and the numbers are growing all the time. That’s not bad for an organization that has no resource.

 

Our volunteers are a 'coalition of the willing', working together to be 'part of the solution'. They are organised into nine teams of volunteers, each team focused on a particular set of transparency-related issues and desired outcomes. Here's a very short overview to explain what each Team is seeking to do but you can read more by clicking on the links on the left hand side (scroll up):

 

The Banking Team:

 

Campaigning for the Banks to treat their business and retail customers in a more transparent way; for example, by changing the way Banks describe their ‘free if in credit’ current accounts and how charges are applied. The highlight so far has been the publication of a well-received White Paper on reform proposals, presented at special meeting held at the House of Commons in June 2017 and Chaired by the wonderfully supportive Lord Cromwell. The event and White Paper was covered by The Times.

 

The Foreign Exchange Team:

 

Unfortunately, the Foreign Exchange market is full of opacity that adversely affects consumers and even institutional investors. The Team published a constructive critique of the Global FX Code in July, explaining why the Code doesn’t go far enough to make costs in FX more transparent. The White Paper drew acknowledgement and response from the Competition & Markets Authority and the Economic Secretary at HM Treasury.

 

The Market Integrity Team: 

 

The Team consists of over 50 senior executives from Financial Services Trade Bodies, Professional Associations, Standards Boards and similar; all working together to improve the overall effectiveness of the UK’s Financial Services Codes of Conduct, with a view to positively impacting market behaviour. The truly ground-breaking work of this Team will improve outcomes for consumers and help restore confidence in the Sector.

 

The Costs & Charges Team:

 

Transparency on costs & charges is so important because it will encourage a more competitive market and thereby generate better net results to savers and investors, particularly pensions savers. The highlights so far was a very special meeting held at the House of Commons in September 2016 that was Co-Chaired by Tom Tugendhat MBE MP. The event was the first ‘Transparency Strategy Summit’ in the World, and dealt with the question: “What can we collectively do to help protect the UK’s pension savers from hidden costs and charges?” We presented our research on costs and charges which was even mentioned on the front page of the Financial Times.

 

The Stewardship & Decision-Making Team:

 

This Team is undertaking important work designed to help fiduciaries (particularly pension scheme trustees) to make better-informed decisions. This is necessary to counter-act the asymmetry of information issue that often leads to sub-optimal outcomes for pension scheme members. The problem is that decision-makers often don’t have all the information they need to have a full picture because they sometimes have information presented to them in a manner that skews reality. This probably happens unintentionally but might be influenced by the commercial agenda of their advisers.

 

The Scams & Scandals Team:

 

This Team’s work is of profound importance to the reputation of the Financial Services sector as a whole but also to the well-being of members of the public being who are literally at risk of having their pension schemes defrauded from them. People are being tricked into transferring their pension funds into criminals’ pockets. This is a grotesque wrong that is taking place ‘under our very noses’, right now. Real lives of real people are being ruined by the awful, scandalous fraudulent activity of some people that seemingly cannot be stopped by the Regulators, or the Police. We are campaigning to raise awareness of the issue and are producing a White Paper to propose much-needed reform to help stamp out the problem.

 

The International Best Practice Team:

 

The Team is developing The Global Transparency Index to highlight pro-transparency best practice around the world. This will allow countries to benchmark themselves against others in terms of how transparent their financial services ecosystems are (particularly their pensions industries) It is designed to be an invaluable resource for Governments and Regulators. Our initial focus is the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands and the Global Transparency Index will be a ground-breaking development that will accelerate the rate at which the Financial Services industry around the world moves to a more transparent state and therefore a fairer and more efficient state, enabling better outcomes for millions of people globally.

 

 

Team PISCES:

 

This Team is about the world’s capital markets becoming a ‘force for good’. The P is for Purpose; I is for Impact Investing; S is for Sustainability; C is for Corporate Social Responsibility; E is for Environment, Social and Governance; and S is for Socially Responsible Investing. There is tremendous scope for the way the financial services sector influences what happens in our world and this Team has seven campaign initiatives underway; each and every one will make a positive difference.

 

Team PAM:

 

This Team is about encouraging the world’s Asset Managers to behave in a more progressive and pro-consumer way; to be more determined to put their clients’ interests first, wherever possible. The P is for Progressive; the A is for Asset; the M is for Managers. The overall purpose is to facilitate collaboration between asset managers that have a more enlightened and progressive approach than most, to drive better outcomes for their clients. The Team was launched in response to the Financial Conduct Authority’s Asset Management Market Study which was justifiably extremely critical of the way the Asset Management industry works. 

 

The Teams are not just ‘talking-shops’ or a ‘whinge-fests’ – they are pragmatically undertaking work that can, will and already has made a difference.

 

They are a consensus-building 'coalition of the willing', working together to be 'part of the solution'. You can just imagine how proud I am of what is being done, how and perhaps most importantly, why.

 

Each Team has at least one campaign project underway, designed to harness the transformational power of transparency to drive the much-needed change that the consumer deserves and the reputation of the Sector needs.

 

Given how much needs sorting in Financial Services we’re obviously going to be busy for a long, long time and we’re always on the lookout for people that want to help.

 

The overall idea is to have lots of people doing their little bit, to ‘dissipate the load’ as much as we can; and now it’s easier to help than ever because as time went by we realised that we could avoid the inconvenience of people having to travel to a meeting in London so all Teams now have a monthly conference call rather than a meeting; which seems to be working fine.

 

Please use the navigation bar on the left to learn more about each of our volunteer teams, who's involved, how to join in and when the monthly conference calls are. There’s no cost or commitment to getting involved.

 

So if you’d like to do your bit and would ‘rather stand up than stand by’ please contact me through andy.agathangelou@transparencytaskforce.org

 

Credit where credit's due (and a cry for help!)

 

I can’t even begin to thank our Team Leaders and our 250+ volunteers enough for what they are doing; I really don’t know if there has been anything like the Transparency Task Force's collaborative, campaigning community ever before and whilst I don’t pretend for a moment that everything runs like a Swiss watch, I’d like to think we’re punching above our weight, especially when you think we have no backing, support or funding whatsoever.

 

On that note, I’m desperate to raise a little bit of money to pay an expert to seek funding for the Transparency Task Force; I am often told that what we’re doing is making a positive contribution and is worthy of proper support, but I know I don’t personally have the skills or contacts to go about seeking support in the right way, but there are experts who do. Understandably they (all?) need paying for their input and the Catch 22 is that I don’t have the money to pay them; hence needing to raise a little money, fast.

 

If you have any ideas on that front please, for example if you know somebody that knows about applying for grants and funding please let me know, through

andy.agathangelou@transparencytaskforce.org

 

A HUGE heart-felt thank you to all our Team Members and all our Team Leaders.

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