WRITING IN FINANCE
by Mac Patel, Sacramento State Finance major
What to Avoid
Interview with a Finance Professional
Finance in general terms revolves around the concepts of time, money and risk taking. Its key goal is to provide a better understanding of a business and make decisions involving money. Since most businesses are profit oriented, financial information provided to the decision makers highly influences their decisions. The finance department of any business is crucial in its functioning. It is responsible to integrate between all the other departments that make up a successful business. Its function by coordination between accounting, business management, and sales is the lifeline that results in achieving profits. Accounting has the most effect on the financials of a business. If the accounting department is responsible to provide information on the funds, the finance department is responsible to manage those funds to determine their use. The major reports that financial departments highly depend upon are the Balance Sheet, Statement of Cash Flows, Income Statements, and Statement of Owners' Equity. Based on these reports, decisions such as investments for the coming year, payments to stockholders, paying off liabilities, etc. are determined. Knowing what to expect in terms of writing within finance career will not only greatly help in what to expect of the future but will also make you well prepared for it. Though the finance career doesn’t require lengthy writing, minimal writing does require following codes and guidelines. Understanding how to write, whom you are writing to, and what is expected of the writing will be useful in providing a well-structured result. In this website, I will go through the few most common types of writing assignments in finance and expand on their purpose, audience, and writing methods.
Knowing the purpose of writing provides a strong foundation on what and how to write something. Finance is a vast career with thousands of different job titles. Since writing will be a major part of formal communication between parties, its efficient role is very essential. Though most clients and investors will focus more on the financials of the company, it is very important on how they are presented to them. A well written paper can have a positive influence on its readers regarding the organizational and presentational skills of a company. From large corporation CEO’s to a small-time report analyst, all will encounter some type of writing in all fields within finance. The purpose of writing in finance can vary from informal emails to formal reports. They vary based on what is required by the workplace. The purpose of writing can be broadly categorized as informational or analytical. In informational writing, one can expect writing to provide different kinds of information between parties. It can involve from one to several employees, companies, clients, or the general public. On the other hand, analytical writing will be mainly focusing on analyzing and reporting/providing feedback.
Following are common types of writing within a finance career:
Writing as an academic writer is very different from writing as a professional. The audience in the professional field is much larger and has an extensive impact on the business. Knowing your audience is the first step in providing an efficient writing. The amount and type of audience can vary based on the type of document to be written. For example, stockholders will be much more interested in reports for the future investments of the company than the liability reports. If we breakdown the audience in two major parts, one will be anyone employed directly by the company such as CEO’s, CFO’s, managers, etc while the other audience can be much larger, ranging from a few investors to the entire general public. There are different expectations by both these audiences and the way of writing is crucial towards both. For example, the company employees expect informational writing that is well analyzed, supported, and reviewed. Whereas, the other group involving current/ future investors expect analyzed writing to the point. The key in providing effective writing to investors is to be little bit persuasive while providing information. This way it retains and attracts investors while giving them useful information regarding the company.
Following are a few examples of types of documents and the audience related to them:
Understanding the method of writing is very important in any field. There are numerous ways in which a certain paper is written. In finance, different companies follow different methods/rules/ guidelines depending on their preference or requirement standards. For example, a personal business might prefer their papers written in an informal way without following any specified guidelines, whereas a multinational company might require papers written on very strict standards. They all vary on workplace requirements.
In my research, I was unable to find any usage of MLA or APA format used for specific papers by most companies. On the other hand, a Finance Department in the government sector has provided very specific writing style guidelines for their papers/reports. Each state has issued their own standards and guidelines to be followed while writing official documents. For example, the Finance Department of California has provided guidelines to the very usage of commas, periods, hyphens, etc. in their handbook. (Refer to Resource Links.) Even though it will be hard to acknowledge which specific writing style to focus upon to be preparing for the future, they do portray similar characteristics that can be understood and prepared for.
Along with understanding what and how to write, knowing what not write is also important. Since most writing involves feedback the audiences expect certain characteristics. Some of the common mistakes encountered in finance-related writing are:
Tushar Patel (Bachelors in Business Management from San Diego State, MBA in finance from Berkeley University) is a former Cisco employee (Finance Department) and currently is self-employed as an investor and hotel chain owner.
What are the most common types of writings you have encountered in your career?
Throughout my career, I have pretty much encountered most types of writing. On a regular basis, I am usually involved communicating with clients, employees, and investors. Apart from formal and informal email exchanges, memorandums and proposals have been the most common at my work.
What are the most common types of writing mistakes you have seen people make while reading papers at your work?
The m ost common mistakes writers make is they do not follow the purpose of writing. They either do not disclose the entire information expected to be there or they write in a way which suites best for their company/personal goal.
In your experience what were the challenges for your transitioning from college to professional writing?
I did not face any major challenges in transitioning as I was involved in my career reading/writing since my freshmen year in college. Though I did make the mistakes discussed in the previous question. I wish I had proper knowledge as I knew what to write I just didn’t know how to write.
What advice would you give to college students (academic writers) to prepare for professional writing?
My advice would be, READ READ READ! If you are serious about a career in finance, reading articles, proposals, memorandums, analysis. etc. can help become well- prepared for the writing. I wish I had a project like this that specifically targeted the writing part in a career.