Bank of America’s CEO Brian Moynihan was the guest speaker at a World Affairs Council luncheon in Charlotte last month. At the VIP reception prior to the lunch, I wanted to talk with him because if financial regulations are rolled back, the requirement for clear and conspicuous disclosures might be lost. As the Federal Trade Commission states, “‘Clear and conspicuous’ is a performance standard, not a font size.” If regulations that require clarity are rolled back, you can count on financial information remaining overly complex and nearly impossible to understand. Don’t we all want financial information to be easy to read, understand, and use? Of course, we do.
I thanked Moynihan for Bank of America’s marketing campaign a few years ago called “Clarity Commitment.” As part of that Campaign, the Bank created plain language summaries of mortgage disclosures. The Bank’s television ads even included the words “plain language;” that was the first time I heard those words used in an ad for anything (Truly, I wanted to jump up and down shouting “FINALLY”). That the Bank was willing to create a marketing effort around plain language showed a commitment to clarity beyond what other banks had done at that time.
After our conversation, Moynihan entered a room of 500+ people who had come to hear him talk about the state of the Bank and world finances. About two-thirds of the way through his interview, Brian mentioned our conversation and emphasized the importance of clarity in banking communication. While he didn’t reference the name of my business (The Plain Language Group), our conversation evidently was the one he thought worthy of mentioning during his keynote.
I think that means something. I believe it means that B of A and other financial institutions continue to recognize that customers want information they can easily understand and use. I believe it means they understand that clarity is not just about meeting regulatory requirements: clear communication builds trust and loyalty, increases customers, saves time & money, and decreases negative call-ins. The business case for a continued commitment to clear and conspicuous language is clear. Perhaps Brian Moynihan thinks so, too.
Deborah S. Bosley, Ph.D., an internationally recognized plain language expert, is the Founder of The Plain Language Group (TPLG) and believes that good writing is good business.