While most CFA charterholders may not consider themselves to be professional writers, most of them spend a significant portion of their day writing. Whether it’s an email to their internal investment committee, a quarterly letter to their fund’s investors, or an article about recent market trends for the firm’s blog, explaining their investment ideas through the written word is an important skill for most investment professionals.
For many CFA charterholders, however, numbers are their native language, and writing isn’t something that comes naturally to them. But that doesn’t mean these analysts, portfolio managers, and other investment professionals can’t improve their writing.
Contrary to popular belief, writing is not an innate skill that can’t be improved. Even if you consider yourself a “numbers person, not a words person,” there are several simple practices that you can follow to improve the quality and efficiency of your writing.
On August 16, I described six of these techniques in my presentation to the CFA Society Chicago titled, “How CFA Charterholders Can Become Investment-Grade Writers.” Held in a room appropriately called “The Vault” (It used to be the vault for a Chicago-based bank and the walls are still lined with safety deposit boxes), the event was attended by about 90 CFA charterholders.
During my talk I described six tips that anyone can use to improve their writing:
- Trust the process: Don’t think that you can just sit down and start writing. Realize that writing is a five-step process of brainstorming, researching, outlining, writing, and editing.
- Tell your alpha story: In the age of passive investing, your readers are more skeptical about your ability to capture alpha. To make your investment thesis more compelling and memorable, incorporate elements of storytelling by telling the genesis of your investment idea and making abstract ideas tangible.
- Don’t bury the lead: In a world where your audience is constantly being bombarded with information, remember that you don’t have much time to capture their attention. Put the most important and relevant information front and center.
- Overcome the curse of knowledge: One of the reasons that writing is so difficult is that, as an expert on your subject, it is very difficult to “unlearn” what you know. Good writing often requires explaining ideas simply and at a level that makes sense to an audience of non-experts.
- Attack the misconceptions: When formulating your argument or investment thesis, a good place to start is by correcting any misconceptions that your audience has about the topic.
- Narrow the scope: Don’t try to “boil the ocean” by covering a topic that is too broad. Showcase the depth of your expertise by narrowing the scope of your piece and getting granular.
Whatever role you play in the asset management or investment banking industry, your ability to articulate your investment ideas is essential to the growth of your career. Writing is not an innate skill. It is something that can be improved through practice and by following simple techniques that are easy to master, regardless of whether you are a “numbers person” or a “words person."
To learn more about these techniques, download our free e-book, which is designed to help investment and finance professionals improve their writing.
About the Author
Scott Wentworth is the founder and head financial writer at Wentworth Financial Communications. Scott and the team of writers and editors at WFC help professionals across the financial services industry build their brands by creating investment-grade white papers, bylined articles, newsletters, blogs, social media posts, and other forms of content marketing.