You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been contacted by high-end magazines, eager to feature me in one of those day-in-the-life articles, showcasing the glamour of investment writing.
None, that’s how many. No one ever calls.
This is odd. Because, in conversation, people are often curious: Is it like being a journalist? Do I analyse financial statements? Do I have valuable stock tips? Well, now’s your chance to find out.
On many a morning I head into the City, where I work for one of our clients, a leading global asset management firm.
I could lie and say I make good use of the commute by reading high-brow essays, but mostly I just play Scrabble. I am prepared to disclose, exclusively for this feature, that my best word to date has been ‘amounted’, scoring 140 points.
When I get to my desk, I try to pause before diving into the to-do list and take in the absurdly stunning view of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Part of my role is writing fund commentaries. These are reports updating investors on how a portfolio has been performing. Anyone with a workplace pension is an investor, and they all deserve to understand how their money is being handled. Equally, advisors managing larger accounts also need to be informed, and they might care about other types of information.
We vary the language to suit our clients’ audience, because the current money-management environment is incredibly competitive: rather than merely a bland regulatory tick-box, commentaries increasingly serve as important marketing collateral.
Lunch tends to be dynamic affair in these day-in-the-life articles, with high-powered interviewees hopping to canteens, grabbing sandwiches, skipping desserts. Never one to disappoint readers, I jog to the microwave and star-jump as I wait my turn.
Let’s talk stock tips. It’s fun to hear fund managers’ ideas about markets and companies. But no, I don’t go out and buy stocks based on what I hear. For one, it’s legally dubious. More importantly, fund management is less about investing in an arbitrary selection of stocks, and more to do with the portfolio manager’s strategy to consistently identify and exploit mispriced assets.
You’d be right to wonder, given how much managers know about investing, why they need me at all. The answer is that getting from interesting thoughts to well-written messages takes both skill and concentrated effort. Our clients hire investment managers to invest; for writing, they choose us.
It’s hardly dangerous living, but investment writing does require vigilance. When your attention is laser-beamed on what you’re saying, you run the risk of sleepwalking into how ideas are expressed. It’s all too easy to fall back on musty industry catchphrases, or on your ingrained writing patterns.
To combat my own inertia, I’ll immerse myself in another writer’s work. For this purpose, I keep a collection of New Yorker pieces, grouped by author or story type. Alas, this exercise doesn’t magic me into a Pulitzer-prize calibre writer. Yet something stirs just enough to freshen my writing choices.
We should probably talk about the wardrobe. My, the clothes I wear!
I like to keep things classy, so I might opt for a vintage tee with a print of a boogying John Travolta. I should add, I only do this on the days I work from home.
I like this arrangement because it’s much better to feel trusted. Granted, a decade ago the technology wasn’t really there for remote workers to stay in touch. But things have progressed, and I value having management that’s willing to embrace flexible working.
In our industry, it’s considered bad form to publicly take credit for material written for a client. Not every writer is after a by-line anyways; it can feel safer to see your output anonymously representing an established brand. But the company wants to show its wares, so we’re encouraged to write articles for our blog.
And then my showbiz workday ends.
Do I relax with a glass of wine? I do not. Do I cook? Heavens, no. But I do like to live it up, so I watch Bob Ross paint happy little trees.
As he’d say it, investment writing has been a happy accident. Most of my life, I didn’t know the job existed. It was only when, trying to figure out where to next, I thought: “Well, writing’s fun, I know a bunch about finance, and am good at explaining complicated ideas clearly. Is there a job in that?”
There is, and now you know what it’s like.