My father did his national service in the navy. I remember him telling me why those in the navy saluted with a closed palm and those in the army with an open palm. According to my Dad, those in the army couldn’t be trusted not to have a knife in their hand!
To all my friends in the army, I suspect my Dad was joking, though the fact I remember this from a very early age, means I learned the value of full disclosure as an infant. I have always trusted those who are open over those who demand trust by right.
This story flashed upon my inward eye, as I was reviewing a blog yesterday. I’d had a conversation with an organisation that claimed it did not operate an internet based system of disclosure (though it did run a website promoting itself and had been promoting on our linked in group).
The teaser ad, the ones that intrigue to draw you in, till you are stunned with the “big reveal” are all very well, but when we are talking about life savings, and an industry as complex as financial services, a system of web-transparency is pretty much essential.
The two objections the aggrieved parties had of my writing was that I had not carried out due diligence on them and that I had not written with the barricade of legal caveats that would have protected me (and everybody else) from defamation.
In short, I had spoken my mind and spoken as I found.
In this particular case, I had spent nearly three hours of -an admittedly wet – Saturday morning ,trying to find out about the organisation I was researching. I had found nothing on the web but a complex set of inter connections in a very layered proposition.
The blogs I’d written had been exemplary; examples of how difficult it is for trustees and advisers to do due diligence into organisations that choose to tease but not to reveal what for me are essential details.
- Who is behind an investment scheme?
- Who is managing the assets?
- What is the charging structure?
- How do i find out more?
In a cloak and dagger world, compliance becomes a marketing tool. The very consumer protections that create pages of small print, allow for this information to be skilfully omitted from the public offering.
This approach plays to a very sophisticated audience, typically to other experts in compliance for whom the skill of a marketing proposition is in managing opaqueness without becoming uncompliant.
In this cloak and dagger world, there is no means to talk of these goings on other than in veiled language, for fear t of an injunction and the legal fees that follow.
Is this the bloggers fight to fight?
In cases such as this – probably not. It is perhaps their job to ask questions and bring issues to the attention of readers who may or may not agree.
It is not the bloggers job to act as a surrogate regulator. But I think that those who write and enforce the rules, need the feedback of those who use the web, they are the eyes and ears for those who don’t have time or are constrained from discussing these issues themselves.
Personally, I don’t think that any new venture that involves managing people’s money, can be anything but web-transparent. The web is now such a source of information that we expect it, and information can so easily be posted to the web , that we must ask “why can’t I search it?”.
It is a general axiom of investing, that you should never invest in something that you cannot understand. So if you cannot find out what you need to know on a wet Saturday morning, a man’s entitled to ask “why not?”.
This begs questions which are no doubt being considered in more detail by those who protect consumers for a living. In the meantime, I will continue to do what I can – on the web – to promote good practice and question what I cannot know!
An open palm beats a closed palm.
if it can’t be searched, it can’t be trusted.