Transparency goes beyond appearance

ap.par.en.cy |?'par?nse | n. Creating only the appearance of being transparent. Providing dense, impenetrable legalese or otherwise inaccessible information. A potentially missed business opportunity.

ap.par.en.cy |?'par?nse | n. Creating only the appearance of being transparent. Providing dense, impenetrable legalese or otherwise inaccessible information. A potentially missed business opportunity.

Following every financial crisis, there's a call for more transparency. “Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant ...”

Take the new credit card rules, the mailings we all received from our providers – those letters and pamphlets. Overwhelmed by the sea of small print, we tossed them on our “to read” pile. After a week or two, we resigned ourselves to being fatalists and sent them off to recycling. (At least we can feel good about that.)

Transparency? Did those disclosures help you in any way? Did they make you feel any better about the card company that sent it to you?

Great companies like USAA use transparency as an opportunity to differentiate themselves – to cement customer relationships by taking an approach that instills trust, rather than simply mitigating liability.

USAA is the envy of the financial services industry by such metrics as products per household and persistency. Generations of families have a devoted bond to an insurance company! They proudly tout their USAA membership, displaying 25- and 50-year member bumper stickers.

Take a look at how USAA informed its cardholders beyond the compliance bill stuffer.

Compare USAA customer comments to posts about other financial services companies. A lot of companies say that they are customer driven, but USAA genuinely is. For others like USAA, whose interests are aligned with customers' interests, it's good business to help customers make more informed decisions by following the principles of compliance, not simply the letter.

That means communications should be an integral part of the team, rather than simply treating transparency as a “check the box” issue to be handled solely by compliance lawyers.

David Tager is president of Tager & Co.

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