For years, David Haas would prepare a 10-page market commentary every quarter and send it to all his clients. It took about 20 hours to write.
Haas, a certified financial planner at Cereus Financial Advisors in Franklin Lakes, N.J., started to wonder if he should keep investing so much time and effort in these reports. So in 2020, he inserted a sentence near the end, “To anyone reading this, I’ll give you a $25 Amazon gift card if you contact me.”
“I only had to give away one gift card,” Haas said. “So I stopped writing these commentaries.”
He has come to realize that most clients aren’t particularly interested in reading his lengthy analysis of economics and markets. They trust that their advisor knows this stuff, “so you don’t need to keep proving it” by writing long commentaries, he says.
Yet many advisors are market mavens who enjoy sharing their thoughts on everything from hot and cold stock sectors to the Federal Reserve’s latest moves. They figure that delivering regular market updates to clients differentiates them from their peers.
If you’re going to write market commentaries, how can you ensure that they hit the mark? Will clients — and other recipients — find them useful or simply trash them?
To attract readers, generate excitement with a clever title and eye-catching graphics. Stoke their curiosity from the get-go so that they’re more motivated to dive into it rather than just flip through the pages and discard.
“The key is a catchy title and pictures that captivate the reader,” said Tom Balcom, a certified financial planner at 1650 Wealth Management in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla. “We find that’s what piques their interest.”
Prune Away The Fluff
From experience, advisors figure out how to refine the process of crafting market commentaries to deliver more value to readers. Ironically, the most wonky advisors with a mastery of arcane market theories are also at most risk of wasting their time.
Their passion for the topic can lead them to use technical jargon. Readers who don’t share their passion are apt to ignore the updates.
“Over time, I’ve learned to make them shorter,” said Ken Waltzer, a certified financial planner at Los Angeles-based KCS Wealth Advisory. He started writing quarterly market reports in 2004.
His last quarterly report was about 2,750 words plus roughly 250 words of disclosures at the end. While some clients read it thoroughly, others skim it, he says.
As a first step in writing each report, Waltzer and his colleagues ask themselves, “What are our clients worried about?“
“We start with what they might be confused about,” he said. “It’s a way to keep our clients engaged and help them understand what’s going on with their money.”
To limit the word count, Waltzer rereads the draft twice. First, he looks for ways to revise the content to make it flow better. Then he revisits the text a few hours later — or the next day — with the sole intent of cutting extraneous words and phrases.
“You don’t need to go into a dissertation on any topic,” he said. He and his colleagues resist the urge to add detail when an overview works just as well.
Pick The Right Headings To Organize Content
Writing market updates gets easier when you apply the same organizational framework to each one. That’s why some advisors develop a template — and then fit the content into it.
For example, Waltzer organizes his market commentaries into four parts: a review of what has happened in the markets since the last quarterly report, what factors influenced recent market moves, what he and his colleagues think will happen in the coming quarter and how they are managing clients’ money as a result.
Mike Caligiuri takes a similar approach. A certified financial planner at Caligiuri Financial in Dublin, Ohio, he divides his quarterly market commentaries into four headings: stocks, bonds, precious metals/bitcoin and monetary policy/fiscal policy.
“Throughout the quarter, I’m collecting articles (on financial topics) that I think are important to share with my clients,” Caligiuri said. “Once I have this huge list of articles, I put them into one of these four sections.”
To enhance his writing, Caligiuri says he likes to vary his sentence structure to avoid stringing together lots of long sentences. He also tries to anticipate what his clients — mostly physicians — want to know.
“I put myself in their shoes,” he said. “They may want to know what the Federal Reserve is doing and what are the impacts. I try to focus on teaching important, fundamental concepts.”
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