There is now no doubt that Accessibility has become an important topic for our clients. So much so that many have now asked us to place Accessibility as a top priority over the coming period. We are not surprised as we have seen a growing interest in this area dating back a few years. It has allowed us to get ahead of some of the needs that are now surfacing.
The need stems not only from a deepening of standards by authorities, such as the pioneering regulations in Canada. We are also noticing a top-down shift in attitudes in many investment management firms demonstrating a pro-active stance to assist in providing a beneficial service to aid society as a whole.
This shift is now tasking digital teams with yet another challenge as they come to terms with juggling a hatful of priorities at a time when consumer regulations and care of duty to consumers continue to be hot topics for regulators.
The PRI Equivalent for Social Good
Signing up to the PRI has been a common theme across investment managers in the last two years. A lesser subscribed UN convention is that governing the rights of persons with disabilities, the foundation for much of the aforementioned accessibility regulation. For investment marketeers, the intersection point of this to your world will likely come in the form of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a W3C standard incepted in 1999 and currently on its second iteration.
It is hard to argue with the merit of adopting accessibility standards from a purely deontological perspective. If you have the option to make your business accessible to people with disabilities, then clearly you should. However, given the range of pre-existing regulatory regimes an investment manager is subject to and the perceived difficulty of attaining compliance, it can easily fall by the wayside.
I am not here to tell you that it is easy to do on your own. We are by no means at the end of our journey in making our business accessible here at Kurtosys and we have had help along the way from both our forward-thinking clients and partners such as Zoonou. The first instance where accessibility became an imperative for us was in making all of our digital fund experience modules compliant. At first glance this seemed straightforward, but as our developers and product managers will no doubt tell you, just wait until you try to make features like your interactive line charts compliant! While we are now nearing the end of this process, we estimate as much as 40% of our time in the last two years has in some way been devoted to achieving WCAG 2.1.
Helping Find The Way
The upside of course is that, as the industry matures, more options are becoming available to simplify this process. However, a word of caution – while it may be tempting to look to ‘magical’ overlay solutions that purport to instantly achieve compliance, the results may be a worsening of your site’s actual accessibility.
If you are thinking of revamping the fund data areas of your site, you’ll be pleased to know that our fund centers and product data components all ship out of the box with WCAG 2.1 accessibility built in. Beyond this, engaging an accessibility consultant to review your new site designs, or working with a design firm with experience in the area will save a lot of headaches down the road.
In our opinion web accessibility will become as much of a requirement as mobile responsive sites for all businesses, and in the investment industry it will be the push towards social good that drives it, not just regulation. For heads of digital, mobile-first will become accessible-first. For those managers in the vanguard, it can be a clear differentiator to show that you are not just paying lip service to the notion of doing social good in your own business.
Here at Kurtosys, we are now certifying for compliance with WCAG 2.1 across our core platform to ensure that anyone is able to use our software. As the Chief Product Officer here, I may be scrutinized for supporting an initiative that, in some people’s eyes, may not drive as much demand for our platform as perhaps a new feature or function. However, the view we hold across our exco and the rest of our company is that some things are just the right thing to do. One might suggest that your investors will increasingly hold the same view about the S in ESG and scrutinize organizations accordingly.
This is the third piece in our series of articles on accessibility, in which we will be sharing our insights on the do’s and don’ts of making fund centers and data experiences accessible, as well as an accessibility state of the union across some of the biggest investment management websites in the world.