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Auteur: Chung-chien CHANG

A Closer Examination of Profiling Survey - Manipulation or Protection?

Abstract/Résumé: As a common practice, most banks require prospective investors to complete an investment profiling survey before further suggestions of investment targets are made. Often, this survey is described as a document that enables the banks to choose the most appropriate investment items for their clients. Phrased in this manner, such a survey becomes the first step to take for all prospective investors. The questions listed on the survey are designed carefully to elicit the information targeted by the banks, while most respondents take the survey only as a regular procedure. What these prospective investors do not realize is when they fill out this seemingly friendly questionnaire, the information they provide is interpreted entirely differently by the investment professionals. This paper closely examines the discourse used in the investment profiling survey from one major bank. Since business activities, ranging from sales conversation, commercials/advertisements to contract signing, are governed by the principle of caveat emptor (“buyer beware”), and this principle prevents all communication from being completely transparent, direct or candid, the responsibility to carefully read and understand the information presented falls on the shoulders of prospective investors. To examine the profiling survey in detail, the study focuses on analyzing the issues including stance, metaphors, hedging, presupposition, ingroups/outgroups, and power. These features are chosen because they generate different interpretations for investment specialists and prospective investors. The findings indicate that the questions and statements presented in the survey tend to de-emphasize the risks involved in investment and lead investors to underestimate the volatile nature of the investment market. In addition, many questions aiming at finding out the investment habits of investors presuppose them to have certain traits or life goals, leading the prospects to behave accordingly while answering the survey questions. The analysis reminds the investors that the profiling surveys of this kind by nature grant more power to the financial institutions despite their harmless surface reading.