The Transparency Task Force (“TTF”) is a grass-roots movement dedicated to encouraging greater transparency in financial services. Participants in the TTF, and its underlying Teams, are all volunteers doing so on their own time and initiative. There are currently six Teams, covering: Data; Transaction Costs & Charges; Rationale for Decision-Making; Stewardship; Terms & Conditions; and International Best Practice. My focus is the Transaction Costs & Charges Team.
The Transaction Costs & Charges Team’s aim is to identify as many of the costs and charges deducted from savers’ capital as possible in order to place savers and their agents in a better position to understand what these costs and charges are. A better grasp of these costs and charges will allow those purchasing the related services to make more informed purchase decisions.
We have broken the life of any investment down into six stages: Set-up/take-on; Contribution; Ongoing – steady state; Ongoing – changes; Withdrawal; and Wind-up/end of contractual term. We have also identified six different categories of costs and charges that apply across the six stages, namely: Administration; Investment & risk management; Client communication; Legal; Governance, regulation & compliance; and Intermediary fees. This six by six matrix forms the basis for the process of mapping the various costs and charges.
We have mapped well over 100 costs and charges to date and are certain there are many more to come. We would welcome any input from those with hands-on experience, or not, as to costs and charges they are aware of that are levied against any type of investment. Once we have concluded this initial cost and charge gathering stage of the process, we intend to map this range of costs and charges back against specific product (e.g. mutual funds, ETFs etc.) and wrapper (e.g. pension, ISA etc.) types.
Our long-term goal is to create templates to consistently capture and measure costs and charges. Once these costs and charges are robustly measured, they can then be managed – to the benefit of both savers and service providers. The former will be better placed to assess the services they require and the value thereof. The latter will be more able to demonstrate the benefits being provided relative to the costs charged.
The active participants in the TTF feel that there is widespread benefit to be had from improving transparency in financial services. The active participants are putting their time and effort behind this transparency drive but do not have, nor want, a monopoly on this initiative. Please feel free to add your contribution, in whatever way works best for you. Contact details are listed on the TTF’s website. Please list any charges or costs that we should be looking out for and/or suggestions as to how we can improve our approach in the comments section on this blog.