Friday, March 9, 2007

Belling the Financial Sector: How to Put Warning Bells?

Excerpts of an interesting article by Ravi Srinivasan in Hindustan Times

Our financial sector is also in urgent need of some unambiguous warnings. The other day, I happened to overhear my son (he is 10, and currently heavily into television advertisements) playing what appears to be a pretty popular game amongst children of his age group - they were "doing" their favourite commercials. One of them sounded like "mutual mbldfldmnbling".

Intrigued, I asked the kids to do it again. And it did not sound any different the second time around either After some patient questioning, I discovered that they were doing what they thought was a straight repetition of the statutory warning which the markets regulator has insisted funds add to their commercials.
The next time I watched one such ad, the warning did actually sound like Donald Duck on acid. The audio was unintelligible and the visual had gone in a flash. Now this might be satisfying the letter of the law, but comes nowhere close to the spirit.
Insurance ads are no better Their advisories are equally unintelligible even at normal speed. "Insurance is a subject matter of solicitation," they say. Excuse me, but I thought prostitution was a subject matter of solicitation (solicitation for sex is a punishable offence, by the way). Where does insurance come in? This reflects poorly on the user-friendliness of our regulatory checks and balances.
If you don't believe me, just ask any mutual fund investor who has just seen his investments take a battering in the markets and paid for the privilege by way of fund management fees whether he or she had been clearly warned about the risks of investing, even indirectly, in equities.
Caveat emptor is all very well, provided the caveat is clear And preferably, in plain English
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