Money affects all of us, so we’ve all received communications from Planet Investment. Unfathomable messages from fund managers offering twelve different asset classes we can choose; confusing credit card offers with terms and conditions eight pages long; scary pension statements which make risk seem like something we’d be insane to consider. We’ve all looked at communications from the financial industry, stuff that affects our lives and our money, and wondered what it really says. Why does it have to be so complicated?
The human brain must be alert and engaged to receive information, but for most of us Planet Investment is scary and confusing. This means avoiding, patching up and making do. In short – losing out.
So, we put a team of the financial industry’s finest together with some of London’s best creative brains to rip up the rule book and reimagine financial content for people without economics degrees or ten years’ worth of compliance training. The themes for discussion were:
On 21 February, with the kind support of Legal and General Investment Management and a selection of creatives, broadcasters and journalists, we hosted a one-night-only pop-up exhibition to show off alternative communications from Planet Investment. The aim was to show that there are better ways; to leave compliance hats at the door and just make financial concepts clearer. Possibly even make them funny.
“It’s really impactful, what you’ve done,” said Dame Helena Morrissey of Legal and General in her introduction to the event. “We often make change incrementally in finance, but three quarters of British adults still don’t have an investment product. We need to be more radical. Put ourselves in each others’ shoes.”
The team came up with eight separate exhibits. The results were strange, surprising and even a little bit fabulous.
Start at the Beginning:
To make communications from Planet Investment clearer, we have to start from the beginning. Why do we need to understand this better? Where are our minds when we think about investing? What is it we’re actually saving for?
Free Money! Free Money from the Government!
Is this how you think about pensions? Why isn’t it? Here’s how Planet Investment’s creative brain Kate Thornton put it:
“It’s a conversation that isn’t happening and it needs to. In 100 years women have come so far, but we’re not planning for our financial futures. We can’t do much about getting older but we can do something about getting poorer.”
We all take risks every day. Financial risk is tricky because it’s a measure of volatility – of how much prices move around – and it’s not communicated in relation to everyday events. What kind of ride would it be at a theme park – teacup or roller coaster? What sort of space should it occupy in our heads?
Risk as a term is ambiguous. We used an audio installation to show that even cash which we label as safe or cautious can carry risk – the risk that over a 20 year period your money will just be limp and not work as hard as it needs to.
Conversely higher-risk investments, like shares and funds, which make many feel anxious, can actually be the most prudent course of action over a longer time frame. Risk is relative, not absolute.
“We need to give people the tools to do what they need to do”, said one guest from Schroders. “And help them along the way.”
Are you sure you know what it actually means to invest in a fund? We see a lot of lists and figures, graphs with wibbly red and green bits, descriptions of animal behaviour. How about a visual representation of what we actually own when we own a fund?
It’s easy to forget, in the blizzard of information, that human beings (fund managers) decide which stocks, shares, cash and so on are included in a fund. These humans have interests, lives and reasons for choosing as they do. We’d like to introduce you to George:
Would you be more likely to trust these people with your money, if you knew how many others did so too? What if you knew they liked breeding Yorkshire Terriers or binge-watching House of Cards as much as you do?
Investments and Portfolios:
The finance industry takes the basic concept of investing in companies which we think make decent things, turn a profit and will grow (think Dragon’s Den) and wraps it up in so much jargon that it feels alien and very distant from our everyday lives. But when we invest in a company, we own a tiny part of it. Most of us know that much, but do you know how to interpret whether that company is healthy or sick, how many others have bought it, whether we agree with its ethics or method of doing business? We don’t always associate our investments with the everyday purchases and objects in our lives, even though a lot of them affect us every day.
We used a simple app, Layar, to scan everyday objects and show this information at a glance.
“The tables and rules we have to use are defeating the very object of what we’re trying to do,” said a guest from 7 Investment Management. “We need to make it clearer.”
So what happens next? That’s up to the compliance, legal, marketing and investing divisions of the companies managing the nation’s money. The call is out – let’s make sure they hear it!
For more clear, no-nonsense guides to all things financial, as well as the companies we recommend for the best-performing and most user-friendly pensions, ISAs, Stocks and Shares ISAs, robo advisers and more, visit our Money Tribes and our Best Buys pages.
With enormous thanks to Legal and General Investment Management for their support and interest in the Planet Investment project. Thanks also to Sandra Peat and Rebecca Rhodes from We Are Superhuman, Ali Hanan from Creative Equals, Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan from the Midult, Lucy Dunn from the Pool and Kate Thornton from TBSeen.