The problem with investment writing.

This blog aims to help anyone who writes, communicates or manages communications in an investment setting to:

  • Transform their investment communications into a something that adds real, measurable value for the firm.
  • Write in a way that better engages and informs clients and colleagues.
  • Manage the process of writing.
  • Meet regulatory requirements to communicate with clients in a way that is clear, fair and not misleading.

Financial services companies have long understood that retaining existing mandates and growing assets under management rests on a solid foundation of proper client service. The written word lies at the centre of the service offered to clients.

At a client reporting conference I attended in London, one of the speakers promised to tell us how to ‘achieve a fully automated client reporting process’. The speaker talked impressively about databases, organisational structures, process flows and technology. But she didn’t mention how to automate the writing of the commentary or analysis that goes into client reports. Neither did she, or any other speaker, mention how to design reports or commentary that inform and connect with readers.

I’ve written this book to help you fill that gap. I strongly believe that gaining and retaining clients rests on your ability to communicate effectively. To do that, you need to marshal the same discipline and rigorous research that your firm takes when managing money.

What is ‘Investment writing’?

By this I mean every instance where a client or colleague interacts with your written words in a way that affects their impression of you, your firm, or influences their decisions to invest, to stay invested or cash out. This includes advertising of all types, marketing materials, digital and social media, proposals (RFPs), fund reporting, research, analysis, ‘thought leadership’ and sales presentations.

Every client contact point that involves written words requires the attention of a trained and experienced investment communicator to ensure maximum effectiveness.

An age of mistrust

The investments industry has taken a real battering over the last several years, maybe even the last two decades going back to the split capital trust scandal. Trust and belief are hard to come by. A significant portion of this book focuses on research that proves how certain types of writing can help win a reader’s trust and belief. If that sounds a bit far-fetched to you, I’ve included an extensive bibliography and suggested reading so that you can do your own research on the topic.

This book grew out of in-depth research findings I have been party to over the years. The problems this research has uncovered include:

Lack of trust—again and again I have encountered focus groups and surveys that clearly imply a total lack of trust, along with the belief that investment houses deliberately write to confuse their readers and conceal the truth that their offering is somehow deceitful or misleading.

Lack of differentiation—remove the branding and pretty pictures/graphics from the materials and both institutional and retail clients have difficulty telling one investment firm from another.

Size and length—most respondents felt intimidated by the size and wordiness of much of the materials sent out by investment houses. They mostly couldn’t be bothered to read the whole thing.

Confusing graphs and diagrams—many respondents found most graphical representations of investment topics and performance less than useless, serving only to confuse them further. This was also true of many institutional clients such as trustees of pensions and charities.

But not all the news is bad. The market material you produce does have some uses. Customers sometimes felt reassured by the presence of the marketing collateral they receive in that it acted as reassuring physical evidence of their purchase. Even though they rarely actually read it, they want to feel it in their hands.

But the conclusion is clear: few people read investment-marketing materials and they don’t believe them when they do.

In this blog, I will tell you how to fix it …

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