Knowledgeable Writers are Better

Avoid embarrassment by hiring knowledgeable writers

The other day, a prospect asked me for an example of a time that my financial knowledge saved someone from making an embarrassing mistake. I couldn’t think of anything then. However, something soon happened that reminded me of the benefit of working with a writer knowledgeable about your field.

Embarrassing misunderstanding

Something didn’t seem right when I read an article draft referring to an advisor using “advanced quantitative research (AQR) funds” in client portfolios.

I’ve never seen AQR used as an acronym for a style of investment management. Also, I know there’s a firm called AQR. A Google search took me to the website of AQR Capital Management, an asset manager that pursues “systematic investing” that’s available in mutual funds, as well as in separate accounts.

I asked the writer to check whether the original reference was correct, or did the advisor use AQR Funds, meaning funds managed by AQR Capital Management, with his clients?

Sure enough, the advisor used funds managed by AQR Capital Management. Luckily, we caught the error before anyone outside (or inside) the firm spotted the error. The embarrassing mistake didn’t see the light of day.

Filling in blanks

From experience, I knew what my client meant when her draft referred to the lower interest rates of the past year. But would her clients get it?

Most non-financial folks don’t follow rates closely—unless they’re mortgage shopping or applying for some other type of loan. To save my client time, I looked up and dropped in information on the fed funds and 10-year Treasury rates.

A non-expert could have asked “What low interest rates?” A more knowledgeable writer can fill in the blanks, saving time for the client.

Avoiding compliance problems

Knowledgeable writers minimize your problems with compliance. Writers who haven’t worked in investment or wealth management are likely to run into problems. Sure, they’ll make a strong case for the benefits of your recommendation. They’re also likely to step over the lines of what compliance considers permissible.

For example, they might say, “This investment will boost your returns.” They won’t be familiar with the prohibition against guarantees or with the hedging language beloved of compliance professionals. They won’t have gone through formal compliance training. They won’t even have the informal training that I discuss in 6 tips to keep your compliance officers happy.

Other benefits of knowledgeable writers

Knowledgeable writers will:

  • Ask better questions because they understand the issues raised by your topic
  • Write in a way that’s easier for readers to grasp because the writers understand jargon and can convert it into plain English

What if your writer isn’t knowledgeable?

You can’t always find knowledgeable writers. Or, maybe you can’t afford them—they do charge more than novice writers.

Here’s how you can prevent an AQR-type mistake (or at least make it less likely):

  • Avoid jargon when presenting information to a writer. If you work mostly with individuals and families—rather than institutional investors—that’s always a good practice.
  • Read drafts carefully and critically. I believe the advisor referred to above had a chance to read the article before I saw it.
  • Get more than one person to proofread your piece. Different people catch different mistakes.

Using a less-knowledgeable writer isn’t all bad. As I said, your writer may be more affordable. And, you may benefit from using an inquisitive less-knowledgeable writer, especially if you’re writing for a less-sophisticated audience. If your writer forces you to explain things in plain English, the article that results may be easier for your readers to understand. At a minimum, a less-knowledgeable writer should deliver a grammatically sound article that reads well. However, you may need to correct mistakes or misconceptions in their drafts.

You may need to try—and see the drawbacks of—a less-knowledgeable writer before you make room in your budget for someone more experienced. Many of my clients have come to me after unhappy experiences with writers who lacked specialized knowledge.

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