Watchdogs and Englishmen

by Patricia Hewitt 0

As Noel Coward wrote, “Mad dogs andEnglishmen go out in the midday sun” and so does the ConsumerFinancial Protection Bureau with the launch of their beta Web site(www.consumerfinance.gov).Lest anyone miss the reason why this bureau was established, theirunofficial logo tells the story – as in this organization is goingto police the financial services industry.CFPBAnd, taking their charter literally, anintroductory video (narrated by Ron Howard – didn’t he play SheriffAndy Taylor’s son?) was designed as simplicity itself with stripeddown graphics and easy, easy, easy to follow explanations. What! Nophoto of J. Edgar Hoover?

All kidding aside, while it’s easy to throw stones, we should alsogive credit to a governmental agency that is clearly trying tothink out of the box. Federal agencies work hard to createinformation for consumers, but its delivery can be a bit tone deaf.That’s beginning to change and we can point to other initiativeslike National Consumer Protection Week (ncpw.gov) which are tryingto make government more accessible to the average joe. Ok, so thisgovernment gets social media. Will this make the CFPB moresuccessful? Perhaps – if you’re a consumer.

But, to a financial services executive, the message may not beexactly about being creative. If simplicity is the watchword, thenproduct managers who are designing the new (and often complicated)checking account fee structures that are being introducedthroughout the market should take note. Beware- the bureau may notbe watching (yet), but its encouraging consumers to keep an eye onyou. They have a YouTube site (http://www.youtube.com/cfpbvideo),where their introductory video has been viewed over 4,700 times todate, as well as a Facebook page and Twitter account (1,035followers). In an introductory email sent when you register on thesite, the bureau calls itself “the first twenty-first centuryconsumer agency” and announces that they intend to “…level theplaying field”. Ouch, watch it – your badge pricked me!