Quietroom https://quietroom.co.uk/ thinking / writing / training Mon, 28 Oct 2019 10:22:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 https://quietroom.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/cropped-quietroom-q-logo-site-icon-32x32.png Quietroom https://quietroom.co.uk/ 32 32 Are you getting your comms ready for the future? https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/10/15/future-comms/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/10/15/future-comms/#respond Tue, 15 Oct 2019 13:41:16 +0000 http://dev.quietroom.net/?p=47323 From interactivity to AI, here are four things we’re thinking about as a business, to help us get ready for the world that’s coming. s should consider taking bolder responsible investment steps.

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Written by Rhys Williams
Smashed crystal ball image illustrating a blog on educating the finance industry.

Great communication is a moving target. Aim for where it is now and you’ll miss the mark.

The first email was sent in the 60s.

The first commercially available mobile phone was released in 1983.

The first smartphone came out in 1994.

The first video was uploaded to YouTube on 23 April 2005, before my children, its biggest fans, were even born.

So, if our conversations about the future of communication are to do with going digital, going mobile, optimising for smartphones, or producing video for YouTube, isn’t there a risk that we’re preparing for a past that’s long gone, rather than getting ready for a future yet to come?

Here are four things we’re thinking about as a business, to help us get ready for the world that’s coming.

1. Communication beyond the click

Once we put pen to paper. Then we put hand to mouse. Before too long, it was finger to screen. But within the next few years, even that will begin to feel too slow. We’ll be using our voices, our eyes and maybe even just our minds to interact with the world around us.

Take healthcare as an example. Amazon won a patent in 2018 that can identify your physical and emotional state. If it hears you coughing, it will prescribe you cough drops. Consider that Amazon have also acquired Pill Pack and you get where this is going. Then there’s therapist service The Difference, which allows users to connect with a therapist through Alexa, with no appointment necessary. While you’re waiting for your therapist to arrive, it’ll play you a guided meditation. Eventually, the smart device might become the primary way you interact with everyone, your first port of call for getting stuff done. Microsoft’s Cortana assistant can already diagnose with greater accuracy than a human GP, based on symptoms alone. But it can also call the ambulance, brief the doctor, and book your bed, meaning the humans have more time to look after you.

Where do we go after that? Well, this time last year, researchers at the University of Minnesota announced they had prototyped a 3D-printed light receptive array – or bionic eye, if you will. It converts light to electricity and they hope over time it could restore sight to people who are blind. Then there’s the Teslasuit, a full body haptic suit that uses electro-stimulation to provide users with physical sensation, in a piece of news welcomed by deviants across the globe. In a live demo recently, they got one Wasps rugby player to tackle another from 100 miles away. In July this year, Elon Musk’s startup Neuralink announced plans to implant the first brain-computer chip in a human by the end of next year. At first, they want to understand and treat brain disorders. But ultimately, they want to enhance human brains.

Put all this together and you can see the direction of travel. We all want to spend less time and effort getting the things we need. As communicators, we have to be looking for every possible opportunity to reduce friction and effort, and to increase connection. Technology is just there to help us do it at speed and scale, for a lower cost.

2. Interactive narrative

Charlie Brooker’s Bandersnatch won two Emmys last month, one for Outstanding Television Movie and one for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. It also won an award for Best Game Writing. So what was it, story or game?

It was both: an interactive story where viewers made choices on behalf of the main character, who himself was adapting a choose-your-own-adventure book into a video game. It was made possible by a bespoke program called Branch Manager. Branch Manager maps out all of the possible paths through the tale via a system of flowcharts, and also keeps track of viewer choices. It’s now available to anyone who wants to create interactive narratives on Netflix. And like everything else on Netflix, it generates an extremely valuable stash of data and insight on what people like and how they behave – so much so that in February, a researcher asked Netflix for the data they stored on him under GDPR. Another team of researchers concluded that Netflix would be able to tell what food and music people liked, but also more sensitive information like viewers’ affinity to violence or their political preferences.

Why is this interesting to us as communicators? Because the same techniques Brooker and Netflix used to grab viewers’ attention, involve them in the story, guide them through a complex network of choices, and glean insight from them are just as useful to us when we’re trying to do the same. In the areas we work in – from pensions to long-term insurance to healthcare – we’re always struggling to encourage people to project themselves into a future they’d rather not think about. But now imagine a story that allowed us to experience now some of the difficult choices we might be faced with later in our lives. We could make financial choices, or lifestyle choices, on behalf of a character. Or, with ‘deep fake’ style visual trickery, we could see ourselves on the screen instead. Make the choice, experience the consequences, simulate the future, then return to the present to live it for real. We think there’s loads of potential here – not just to engage people, but to discover more about how they think, how they make decisions and how they learn.

3. Colossal data

It’s like big data, only bigger. With 500 billion devices predicted to be connected to the internet by 2030, each one collecting information which can be aggregated and analysed, we are going to know an awful lot about ourselves and companies are going to know an awful lot about us.

Already, there are smart bottle tops on the market that prompt you to hydrate, track how much you drink, and reorder water for you when you run out. There are tablets that tell your doctor when you’ve taken them and contact lenses that tell your health insurer how well you’re managing your diabetes based on the blood sugar in your tears. There are smart beds that cool you down if you’re too hot at night or boil the kettle for you when you start to stir in the morning. Connect everything up, and you can learn a lot about yourself. Would you like to know how long you spend in meetings, how much of that time you actually spend reading your emails, and what happens to your blood pressure? It’s all possible.

Data like this is engrossing to us. It promises to tell us things we know about our own lives. But it’s also engrossing to the organisations we deal with. They use it – to find out about us, to understand what we need, and to give us more of what we like. We might feel a little queasy about how much they know about us, but we get over that quickly when we experience the benefits it unlocks. Better health. A better night’s sleep. A nicer start to the day. Insight into things that make us happier. More prosaically, it unlocks messages and recommendations that are unique to us. It makes mass personalisation possible – not just communication that’s tailored (though that’s a big step forward), but also exercise regimes that are based on our DNA, personalised supplements based on the micronutrients missing from our blood, personalised beauty products based on the health of our skin.

What are the implications for us as communicators? Well, we need to look at the data we’ve got and make better use of it. And we need to collect any data we might be missing. It doesn’t have to be hard numbers. It’s also useful to know how people feel about their interactions with us (the equivalent of the smiley faces next to airport queues, or thumb emojis under Facebook posts).

4. AI = IA

The rise of the machines has prompted a fair amount of alarm amongst people of working age. How will our jobs change? Will they even exist? While the received wisdom is that creativity, imagination, empathy and emotional intelligence will be the hardest skills for computers to master, there are parts of Quietroom’s work that we can see changing already. But we prefer to see it as an opportunity rather than a threat. Everything the algorithms do for us is something we don’t have to do for ourselves. In the time we save, we’ll do things that make us happier and add more value for our clients.

Again, there are lots of opportunities.

Algorithms can change the way we read. IBM Watson can analyse tone and personality, for example. It’s not a substitute for the sort of close reading we do, but it can help us generate some hypotheses or validate some assumptions. It can read and analyse more text than we could ever manage and do it all in the time it takes us to make a cup of tea (we have a very slow kettle).

They can change the way we write. In May 2019, Microsoft announced a new feature for Word that suggests more inclusive terms when writing. Besides analysing spelling and grammar, the feature gives you suggestions for more inclusive language you might use – such as “police officer” instead of “policeman”. There’s a Gmail plug in which will make your emails more assertive (by removing ‘unnecessary words like sorry’, it claims – proof that not all innovations qualify as improvements).

They can change the way we interact. Research shows that people are happier asking a bot basic questions, because they know it won’t judge them. We can see a future for Quietroom where we’re putting brilliant explanations of complicated things into the mouths of virtual assistants and chatbots more than websites and emails.

And they can change how we build our understanding of the people we’re here to serve. We’re piloting a linguistic model, along with the brilliant Digital Forensics and Data Science people at insight agency Flamingo. The model reads social media posts from consumers about the subjects we’re interested in. Using machine learning, we’re clustering the words people use when they talk about money, for example, and looking for patterns in the data that we can visualise, from the way the conversation changes over times to which words are more likely to appear together. It’s a new way to understand what matters to the audience we care about. It helps us understand what their thought processes are, how they feel about the sectors we work in, and how they feel about the clients we work with. I have never been a fan of reading the bottom half of the internet. Now I don’t have to, because the algorithm does it for me.

That’s how we see artificial intelligence changing our work. It won’t replace us, it will teach us to be better. By picking up some labour-intensive parts of our work for us, it will free up time for us to do things that make us happier and our clients more successful. Not so much AI, as IA: an Intelligent Assistant.

We need to stop trying to catch up with the past. It’s moving too quickly for us. Instead, let’s look forward and leap ahead. Our audience will expect nothing else.


Other things you might like

Why ‘default’ is a faulty word.

Video: Why designing for excluded groups makes things better for everyone.

What growing anxiety means for financial services.


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Why pension schemes should welcome responsible investing https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/10/03/responsible-welcome/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/10/03/responsible-welcome/#respond Thu, 03 Oct 2019 16:54:57 +0000 http://dev.quietroom.net/?p=47306 The case for putting responsible investing first can no longer be ignored. Here are 3 reasons why trustees should consider taking bolder responsible investment steps.

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Written by Odi Shonga
welcome mat

Individual change is good, but institutional change is better. To tackle the most pressing issues our planet faces, we need big institutions, like pension schemes, to move with us. Pensions money accounts for half of all investments in the UK. We could make a difference if our savings were automatically invested responsibly – in companies that have pro-sustainability values, look after their workers, and look after the environment.

The 2019 UN Climate Change Summit saw Greta Thunberg deliver a clear and chilling message to those who wield power: “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil.”

If the bigger pension schemes made responsible investing a priority, we would move closer to acting with the urgency Greta Thunberg correctly demands.  The case for putting responsible investing first can no longer be ignored. Here are 3 reasons why trustees should consider taking bolder responsible investment steps.

  1. People will save more if they believe their money will do good

For most people, retirement income depends largely on how much we saved while we were working. So, it makes sense to ask: how do we get people to save more? Franklin Templeton and Adoreboard surveyed 2500 people to answer this and other questions. They found that “45% of respondents would be motivated to increase their own contributions if their pension incorporated responsible investing”. Young people (22-38 year olds) in particular would save 20% more than they currently do if they believed in the positive impact of their pound. When we went out and talked to people about responsible investing, we found the same thing (see our video). People care about how their savings are invested.

Imagine having that card up your sleeve in your communications to members. “Your money contributes to the causes you care about, such as investing in renewable energy and building affordable housing. The more you save, the more good can be done in the world. All while saving for your retirement.” It’s engagement gold.

  1. Responsible investing does just as well as conventional investing

Not only do people care, responsible investing needn’t mean abandoning your fiduciary duty to your stakeholders. The research and data company MorningStar tells us that there is “overwhelming evidence” that sustainable investing performs as well as conventional investing. There is no need to fear responsible investing.

  1. The political landscape is changing

We’ve already seen the world’s nations come together to commit themselves to improving the climate with the Paris Accords. Lawmakers and pension regulators will continue to follow developments like these, and oblige schemes to take non-traditional investment factors seriously. To keep ahead of the curve and shore up against future regulation, trustees should integrate responsible investing into their default funds now.


Other things you might like

How to keep calm and talk about emotional stuff

Why are you talking so weird?

Train companies talk backwards. Make sure you don’t


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Why ‘default’ is a faulty word https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/07/04/default/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/07/04/default/#respond Thu, 04 Jul 2019 15:13:46 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=46916 Most ordinary people associate the word ‘default’ with negative ideas like ‘failure’. So perhaps pension schemes should stop describing the place most members’ money is invested in as ‘the default fund’.

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Written by Simon Grover
Dictionary image

Most ordinary people associate the word ‘default’ with negative ideas like ‘failure’. So perhaps pension schemes should stop describing the place most members’ money is invested in as ‘the default fund’.

Default makes people think bad thoughts

Words don’t live in isolation. They are connected in your mind with other words. They remind you of other things – they resonate. Look at what RelatedWords.org says are top words and phrases that have a ‘meaningful relationship’ with the word default:

If that’s not enough to make you doubt the word’s efficacy as a fund name, here are the first five definitions of it from a dictionary:

  • DEFAULT, noun, loss due to not showing up; “he lost the game by default”.
  • DEFAULT, noun, act of failing to meet a financial obligation.
  • DEFAULT, noun, loss resulting from failure of a debt to be paid.
  • DEFAULT, noun, an option that is selected automatically unless an alternative is specified.
  • DEFAULT, verb, fail to pay up.
What we want our word to mean

4 of the 5 definitions above are about loss and failure.

3 are specifically about financial failure. 

These are not the sort of ideas you want to bandy around in financial services, without good reason. And particularly not when what you are actually talking about is something that is supposed to reassure people. The default fund is the one the experts have designed to be fine for most people. It’s an appropriate place for your money unless for some reason you decide to put it somewhere else. For many or most savers it’s a good choice that should be encouraged.

Some words we could use instead

So what are the alternatives to this most inappropriate of words? We’ve had a think, and gathered the views of others too.

If you want to suggest that the default is what most people have, you might go for standard, ordinary or even classic. Automatic feels neutral but has the advantage of hinting at how the fund works – you automatically join it if you don’t choose something else.

Robin Armer at NEST suggests primary or principal as sounding more positive. Perhaps central implies the right level of security and popularity. Pension technology consultant Alan Chaplin suggests “main, usual, normal. Longer description: the fund we believe is best for most people.” Independent Director and Adviser Daniel Godfrey suggests primary selection or general option. Independent Trustee Andrew Cheseldine suggests automatic fund choice. Or optimum, though he suspects the lawyers wouldn’t like that. At a recent conference, Ros Altmann railed against the phrase default. She suggested expert choice – which I do like – and, half-jokingly, specially designed for you.

How to pair our word with self-select funds

If the alternative to the default fund is a phrase like self-select, perhaps our new word should work as a pair with that. Expert-select? If we are going for a matched pair, we could make that pair a metaphor that helps people get it, for example set menu and a la carte. Or automatic and manual. Or would it be more useful to rename both halves of this pair? The ITV DC Plan says hands on and hands off. Or should we drop the metaphor and go for the ‘what it says on the tin’ approach? For example, we invest it for you and you invest it yourself.

Some people have pointed out that the default fund is often not really a fund but a strategy, that moves between funds over time. Either way, if the word we have is an adjective it should be good for most situations: primary fund or primary strategy or primary approach, for example.

There’s only one way to settle this

So what’s the best word to replace default? It can’t be beyond the ability of the pension industry to agree on something better. Here’s the result of a quick poll we took on Twitter:

As co-authors of the standard annual statement, Quietroom might argue that ‘standard’ is a good choice. Personally, I might be edging towards automatic and manual as a good metaphor on the journey to retirement.

A friendly lawyer tells me there seems to be no reason that we have to call these funds ‘default’ – it’s just happened because that’s what they’re called in the legislation. One complication is that default funds can be the thing people get if they don’t choose OR the thing that at least 80% of people choose. So ideas like ‘automatic’ might not work so well in this second case.

What do you think?

 


Other things you might like
 
Your 3 pension options in 3 minutes – our most popular ever animation
In 4 minutes, all the proof you need of what ordinary people think about responsible investing

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Making a map of the pension world https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/06/18/pension-map/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/06/18/pension-map/#respond Tue, 18 Jun 2019 08:03:08 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=46849 The pensions industry is good at talking about process. That’s because we’re used to sequences of thought that run in straight lines. But any description or explanation, however good, starts from someone’s point of view – usually our own. So sometimes we can find it hard to imagine ourselves in different parts of the industry, or in the shoes of a member. To make that easier, we created a map of the DC (defined contributions) world. We decided on a map because they show you the world a different way. A map frees you from any one point of view and lets you choose your starting point, your end point and your route.

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Written by Joe Craig

The pensions industry is good at talking about process. That’s because we’re used to sequences of thought that run in straight lines. But any description or explanation, however good, starts from someone’s point of view – usually our own. So sometimes we can find it hard to imagine ourselves in different parts of the industry, or in the shoes of a member.

To make that easier, we created a map of the DC (defined contributions) pensions world. We decided on a map because they show you the world a different way. A map frees you from any one point of view and lets you choose your starting point, your end point and your route.

We couldn’t have done it without help

We worked with DG Publishing on the map. They’re the go-to source for pension know-how and events – from local authority pension funds to large corporate schemes. So, they were the perfect partner to create this map.

We started with post-it notes

First, Vince, Mark and a few other Quietroomers got into a room with a team from DG Publishing and a small group of experts from across the industry. Together, they planned out a rough map of the DC world on post-it notes and whiteboards.

We invited in more people

Next, we invited other industry leading lights in to see the first version of the map up on the wall. They spotted connections that were missing, told us what they felt worked and added their ideas. For all their help, we offer a particular thank you to Andrew Carrett, Bob Cast, David Hutchins, David Whitehair, Henry Tapper, Jacqui Reid, Nick Groom, Lucian Camp and Tom Hibbard.

We worked with a designer to make the map easy to use

Once we were all happy with what we’d created, we worked with a designer to turn a purely functional diagram into a vibrant, clearer infographic.

This is the first version of the map

The current version of the map won’t be perfect. It represents the collected knowledge of a number of industry experts. But it will keep evolving. The map will develop as our knowledge of the DC world develops. And as more people tell us how they see the world and contribute what they know about their corner of it.

If you’d like to comment on the map, or be involved in creating the next version, head to the map’s website.  

 


Other things you might like
 
Your 3 pension options in 3 minutes – our most popular ever animation
In 4 minutes, all the proof you need of what ordinary people think about responsible investing

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6 steps to fire up your ESG policy https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/06/07/6-steps-esg-policy/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/06/07/6-steps-esg-policy/#respond Fri, 07 Jun 2019 17:02:54 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=46565 With ESG regulations coming through thick and fast, trustees' collars are in danger of getting hotter than Christmas in Sydney. So what questions should trustees pose to their advisers about ESG? There's a lot to think about and it's difficult to know where to start, or how to get useful answers.

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Written by Simon Grover
Image of a toy rocket illustrating a blog on the launch of our new website.

With Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) regulations coming through thick and fast, pension trustees’ collars are in danger of getting hotter than Christmas in Sydney.

So what questions should trustees pose to their advisers about ESG? There’s a lot to think about and it’s difficult to know where to start, or how to get useful answers.

It’s possible to talk for ever about terminology and methodology. But to be useful, these conversations need to focus on simple strategy and step-by-step actions.

The following six headings give trustees a simple conversation guide. They’re from the DC Investment Forum’s ESG report last year. (Full disclosure: we helped write it!)

Go through them in turn with your colleagues and advisers. Write down the answers where you can, and send people off to find answers to those you can’t.

1. What are our red lines?

What’s already on our list of stuff we won’t touch? Might we want to change this list? What would our sponsor want on the list? What would most members expect to see on it?

 

2. What do we know? 

What do we own? What do we know about what we own? How much do we know about where the sources of long-term risk and return are? How can we get a better understanding of what’s going on behind each company’s door? 

 

3. What do we believe? 

Do we believe environmental, social and governance factors affect what happens to our members’ money? Which factors are material to risk and return and which aren’t? Which do we believe our members would like us to consider? 

 

4. What could we do first?

What’s the smallest thing we could do to get started? It might be as simple as asking fund managers for data or running a member survey. 

 

5. What have we learned? 

How can we monitor the impact of what we’ve done? What data can we access that helps us make decisions in the future? 

 

6. What could we do next? 
What should we do now to move things on? It could be asking our fund managers to engage with the companies they believe to be a risk – or it could mean changing the way we invest. Think of it as turning a dial. It doesn’t have to be all the way on or all the way off.

Other things you might like
Your 3 pension options in 3 minutes – our most popular ever animation
In 4 minutes, all the proof you need of what ordinary people think about responsible investing

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What growing anxiety means for financial services https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/05/14/anxiety/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/05/14/anxiety/#respond Tue, 14 May 2019 11:52:19 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=46541 Danger seems to be everywhere. It’s making us more anxious about taking risks. And more uncertain about our futures, and how to prepare for them. For the financial services sector, this means we need to be both reassuring and encouraging.

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Written by Emily Pearce
Image of building blocks to illustrate our blog about the importance of brands understanding their own why.

Danger seems to be everywhere. It’s making us more anxious about taking risks. And more uncertain about our futures, and how to prepare for them. For the financial services sector, this means we need to be both reassuring and encouraging.

The number of people with anxiety in the UK is growing. There’s been a 12.8% increase since 2000. And that’s only counting the people who have been seen by a doctor for it. Many people are just getting on with their anxious lives without support.

A survey by the Office of National Statistics uncovered that 1 in 6 adults had experienced some form of ‘neurotic health problem’ in the past week. While the charity No Panic estimates that around 10% of people will have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some point in their lives. And last year 15.4 million working days were lost because of stress, depression or anxiety. That’s around 25 days lost per person.

So, what’s causing our anxiety? Well, frankly, it’s the state of the world. We have rolling news feeds of terror attacks and controversial politics at our fingertips. There’s the ever-present problem of climate change resulting in the rise of ‘eco-anxiety’. We’re becoming more aware of the threats around us.

But that’s not all. We’re also anxious about our futures too. Specifically, about being financially ready for them. This is something that younger people feel most. Research suggests that young people will be working longer and harder for a smaller pay off in retirement. So it’s not surprising that an estimated 28% of younger people are experiencing so much financial anxiety that it’s impacting their work performance, sleep and health.

What the financial services sector can do about anxiety

Talk about risk openly

The balance of risk and potential reward is a part of financial services, whether it’s mortgages, investments or pensions. But when it comes to soothing financial anxiety it’s better to be upfront about risk.

Businesses that are direct and honest about risk will reassure customers that they have the competency and confidence to guide customers through it all. Whereas businesses that hide behind vague language and generic risk statements will leave customers feeling in the dark. As a result, these customers’ imaginations will fill in the gaps with terrible scenarios of what could happen.

Provide tools that help customers plan

As a species we don’t deal with risk rationally. When risk is present, the primitive fight or flight part of our brain kicks in and we often make snap decisions.

So, it’s best to offer customers tools that help them to manage their reactions to risk. We had a go at this with our animation, ‘What is investment risk’. It tells people in a clear and unintimidating way about the impact of risk on their money.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_Gnz8zo9vo]

Meanwhile, PensionBee and Moneyhub have teamed up to create tools that use data-analytics and machine-learning to let customers track how their current behaviour will affect their financial future.

Show an adventurous side

Customers might be hyperaware of risk – potential or imminent – but still want to experience a sense of adventure. In 2018, 31% of UK consumers said that in the face of growing risks they actually strive to be more unafraid to take them.

This is a great opportunity for financial services if they can strike a balance between being reassuring about risk and positive about reward.

But it’s also important not to be unrealistic about the benefits that adventure can deliver.

After all the UK consumer is the most cynical in the world, so if you promise them too much, they’ll retreat, believing it too good to be true. Promise them support and know-how to help them reach a realistic goal and you’ll attract the anxious but adventure-seeking crowd.

 

What do you think? Have you come across anyone doing a good job at both supporting and soothing our growing financial anxiety? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter.


 

Other things you might like

How to keep calm and talk about emotional stuff

Why are you talking so weird?

Train companies talk backwards. Make sure you don’t


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Diversity is more than just a buzzword https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/04/03/diversity/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/04/03/diversity/#respond Wed, 03 Apr 2019 13:21:43 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=46426 Diversity is more than just a trendy buzzword. There is both a business case and human case for making it a priority, and we shouldn't lose sight of that. Kamel Hothi came in to speak to us on the importance of inclusion and diversity. This is our takeway from that talk.

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Written by Odi Shonga
Image of a load of megaphones, an illustration on our blog about making heartfelt apologies.

Recently, ‘diversity’ has become a buzzword in business. The problem is buzzing tends to become noise, and noise gets ignored. But diversity is too important to ignore. Especially in the world of finance, the more people you include, the more everybody has to gain. A more diverse staff means diverse ideas, and this is crucial when communicating difficult concepts to broad audiences.

This is why we, as specialists in communication, invited Kamel Hothi in to speak to us on the importance of inclusion and diversity. Kamel took us through her personal story as an Asian woman rising through the ranks of the banking sector. She told us of her early days as a cashier and how she unwittingly became the nucleus of the Asian community as people began to realise she could speak their language. Then, we followed her ascension into directing 2500 bank branches across the country and spearheading charity initiatives. Her story is a humanising expression of the difference inclusion and diversity can make. When a few key people at different points in her career took a chance on Kamel, not only did they discover a special talent, they also gave her confidence and courage in a society that was largely uninterested in giving minorities confidence or courage. “That job was more than a job for me,” Kamel explained, after sharing a harrowing account of growing up in a racist Britain and having a difficult home life. “It was my survival. These people listen to me and they make me feel stronger when I go out there.”

And that’s the point.  Of course, business-minded people should care about inclusion and diversity for the vitality of their businesses. Different people bring with them different ways of thinking and the ability to speak to different worldviews. Say, for example, you’re trying to get more people interested in investing. Investing can be inscrutable and daunting.  You’re not going to engage anybody without understanding their outlook and concerns – and a more diverse staff means a more diverse group to draw on to get that understanding.

But beyond that, inclusion and diversity matter for their human effects. Kamel’s talk touched us not for the prospect of increased gains in profitability. It touched us because it bridged a gap we might not have otherwise noticed was there. We should want to actively include women and minorities because women and minorities have too long been excluded. There lies a mutually beneficial wealth of opportunity just waiting to be tapped.

Kamel Hothi OBE is a non-executive director for a number of organisations, including TLC Lions, a company dedicated to creating more emotionally engaged workforces.


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Train companies talk backwards. Make sure you don’t


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What happens to your brain when you stop working https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/03/06/brain-stop-working/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/03/06/brain-stop-working/#respond Wed, 06 Mar 2019 17:08:56 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=46315 Most people know they will stop working one day. But they haven’t thought about what they’ll do instead. It’s a shock to the system for many people, and their brains can start to do some weird and wonderful things.

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Written by Laura Dowse
Image of building blocks to illustrate our blog about the importance of brands understanding their own why.

Most people know they will stop working one day. But they haven’t thought about what they’ll do instead. It’s a shock to the system for many people, and their brains can start to do some weird and wonderful things.

Researchers in Massachusetts, America, have found that two big things happen to the brain when people retire.

1. People reorganise their entire lives

People organise their lives around the places they spend their time, the things they do and the relationships they have.

Maybe they go to work on Monday to Friday, do the food shopping on Thursday evening and always have the family over for a roast on Sunday.

Most of these things change when people retire. This means they need to reorganise their lives. First, they have to decide when and how to stop working. Then they need to forget about work and focus on other things. Eventually, they’ll get into a new routine.

Maybe they’ll go to a pottery class at Tuesday lunchtime, do the food shop on Wednesday morning and meet friends for brunch on Friday.

To make this reorganisation a bit easier, people could gradually reduce their working hours before they stop completely. This would give them a chance to slowly reorganise how they spend their time.

2. People redefine who they are

Work can be a very important part of defining a person. Because of this, they can feel like they lose their identity when they retire. If a person has been a teacher for 30 years and then retires, they can’t call themselves a teacher anymore. They need to redefine who they are.

To avoid feeling lost, people could make sure they have other hobbies and activities outside of work that they can keep doing when they retire. Maybe they’re part of a book club, a green-fingered gardener or – unlike me – a brilliant cook. This doesn’t have to stop just because they’ve retired.

How companies can help people get ready to retire

Companies should help employees reorganise their lives before they retire. They could do this by letting people gradually reduce their working hours before they stop completely.

Companies should also help employees define who they are before they retire. They could encourage people to spend time on things outside of work that they can keep doing after they retire.

By doing this, companies are more likely to have productive employees who have a better work-life balance. They’ll also have time to prepare and spread out work before a person retires.

Where to find out more

This research forces us to think about the reality of retiring. What will we do, and who will we be, when we stop working?

It can be a scary question. That’s why it’s best to be prepared, and at least know that it’ll be a shock to the system when we stop working.

An interview with Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School who was involved with the research, is on the Harvard Business Review.


Other things you might like

How to keep calm and talk about emotional stuff

Why are you talking so weird?

Train companies talk backwards. Make sure you don’t


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Let’s make ‘capital at risk’ a bit friendlier https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/02/11/capital-at-risk/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/02/11/capital-at-risk/#respond Mon, 11 Feb 2019 21:28:01 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=46253 The post Let’s make ‘capital at risk’ a bit friendlier appeared first on Quietroom.

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Written by Emily Pearce

Why work so hard on a down-to-earth and accessible tone of voice just to stick to stale small print?

Over the last few years there’s been a rise in ‘every man and his dog’ investing businesses. The likes of Nutmeg and Moneybox are making investing accessible and understandable for a wider audience beyond the financially confident.

And these businesses are doing so well because they’ve answered a call from a growing demographic. Young digitally-savvy metropolitan savers who face rising prices in housing, living expenses and travel, and so want their money to work harder for them.

Nutmeg and Moneybox stand out from the clutter of other personal finance services by using a straight-forward, no nonsense tone of voice on their tube adverts and social media campaigns to explain how people can save and make money using their apps.

So why oh why are we still seeing ‘Capital at risk’ tagged on the end of their crisp headlines? Why work so hard on a down-to-earth and accessible tone of voice just to stick to stale small print? Some argue that ‘capital at risk’ isn’t a tough concept to understand and I can already hear the compliance teams cry, “we have to say it!”

Sure – you might think it’s straightforward but does everybody? And yes, we have to be upfront about investment risk, but is ‘capital at risk’ the most upfront we could be?

Here’s why ‘Capital at risk’ needs a rethink

It’s not tangible

What is ‘capital’? Can I touch it? Instead of using the word ‘money’ which creates a clear image in your head of what we’re talking about, ‘capital’ leaves you feeling like it’s something alien to you.

It lacks context

What is ‘risk’? How exactly is my capital ‘at risk’? Because we don’t explain the risk, it feels big and scary. Grounding it in the real world would make it more manageable and understandable.

It’s not how you speak

Has anyone ever said, “I can’t believe I left my capital on the bus”? Writing 101: write like you speak. If you wouldn’t say it out loud, don’t write it down.

So what could we say instead?

Your money is at risk

We’ve swapped ‘capital’ for ‘money’. So that’s a great start, but how about:

Your investments can grow and shrink

 We’ve made investing personal to the reader and named what the risk is. Or even better:

When you invest, your money can go up and down

We’ve made investing personal to the reader, swapped ‘capital’ for ‘money’ and named the risk – and it’s writing like you speak.

But this isn’t just about ‘Capital at risk’

Although we’re seeing more businesses embracing a more human way of speaking, it seems small print gets left behind. So there needs to be an overhaul of how we write small print. From pensions to insurance, mortgages to investment, we’re still seeing complicated language used in the most important of places. In customer declarations, product terms and conditions, and even in customer service scripts.

It’s often at these key steps in the customer journey where stale small print lies. And it’s dangerous. Because at a time when someone needs clear and direct information to make a decision, confusing jargon can leave them feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed. This means they could agree to something they don’t understand or turn down a service that could help them.

Maybe your small print is ruled by compliance and legal teams, or the “that’s what we’ve always said” mantra is ringing in your ears. Either way, it doesn’t make investing and managing personal finances any easier or clearer for the customer. And we owe them more.


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How to keep calm and talk about emotional stuff https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/01/30/keep-calm/ https://quietroom.co.uk/2019/01/30/keep-calm/#respond Wed, 30 Jan 2019 10:51:52 +0000 https://quietroom.co.uk/?p=46112 The post How to keep calm and talk about emotional stuff appeared first on Quietroom.

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Written by Zayani Bhatt
Megaphone image to illustrate a Quietroom blog on apologising like a human.
Increasingly, healthcare companies ask us to help them explain to patients what they do. Medical advancements can be complex. But understanding them is important for the patients whose lives could be directly affected. The issues can also be highly emotive.

It’s not just healthcare that gets people emotional or worried. Money does too. So these tips on how to write about health could apply equally to writing about things like pensions or insurance.

1. Write how your audience talks

A lot of people write quite differently from how they speak. Think about ‘thus’, ‘moreover’ or ‘assistance’. When did you last say any of those out loud? People are more likely to understand you if you write in spoken English. That doesn’t mean making it completely colloquial but keep the language clear and familiar. This is not dumbing your writing down, it’s flexing it to match your reader’s world.

2. Do away with jargon and scientific acronyms

When explaining something that you understand well, it’s easy to fall into the trap of using terminology that has become a second language to you. The trouble is, that terminology could be entirely new to your reader. This could put them off reading what you’ve written. So where possible, do away with it. Where it’s not possible, explain as you go.

3. Assume intelligence, not knowledge

If you assume that your reader is intelligent but doesn’t know the intricacies of your subject, your writing is more likely to hit a suitable tone. You’ll explain things where necessary, without patronising.

4. Put the benefit to the reader first

Your reader might not be interested in your subject. Yet. Get them interested by first mentioning the benefits to them. Ask yourself – why should anyone take the time to read this? Once you’ve given a benefit, you can add more information.

5. Get to the point

When talking about our specialist subject, we tend to over-embellish. We’re interested in the details, so we want to include them. But your reader might not be in the mood for details. So start with just the information they want or that’s relevant to them. You can always give them more later on, or somewhere else, if they need it.

6. Ground your message in some statistics

When talking about something emotional, people often want hard evidence. This helps them feel more secure and confident in the information you are giving to them. Use your statistics wisely though – pepper them sparingly so they have impact. Don’t overwhelm your reader with them. And make sure they’re easy to understand.

7. Use imagery and metaphors

Use familiar ideas to explain unfamiliar ones – like coronary artery bypass surgery being like building a relief road round a town. This helps people to feel like they can get their head around your complex subject.

8. Don’t trade clarity for emotion

When writing about something you’re passionate about, it’s tempting to try to make your message inspirational. But it’s easy to misjudge your reader’s feelings – we all respond differently to writing like this. So try to maintain a neutral but friendly tone of voice. Keep calm by avoiding adjectives unless they’re vital for the meaning.


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