Governments want us to take personal responsibility for our financial futures. They give us incentives to do this – in the UK, ISAs (Individual Savings Accounts) are a prime example of this. However, with the current low interest rates, financial advisers
tend to recommend that Cash ISAs should just be seen as somewhere to keep a bit of cash temporarily and not as a real investment for your future. Instead, they recommend that savers should be putting more money into Stocks & Shares ISAs so that their money
grows through the increase in value of the securities and funds that they can invest in.
But just how transparent for the retail saver does today’s technology make those markets for securities and funds? Retail investors have to accept market data from stock exchanges that keeps them 20 minutes behind the market – or pay for the real-time data
from each and every relevant exchange before they can make better-informed investment decisions. The funds market is even more opaque.
Is the information available to retail investors of the quality that they can rely on and trust? The answer has to be a resounding “no!” For example, one major search engine provider has a FTSE 100 page together with each of the index constituents. But
some of the constituent stocks are not there! And which ones are missing varies from one day to another. Imagine the reaction of retail investors when it appears that a UK blue-chip stock has just dropped out of the FTSE 100! And when this happens to different
blue-chips on different days!
One starting point for boosting the level of savings in the UK should be to examine the transparency of markets, as increased transparency and better-quality information will make saving more attractive for everyone.