The Out & About Blog Spotlight Series elevates insight from the financial service industry’s best and brightest. We cover challenging topics around diversity, inclusion, purpose, and inspiring the next generation.
Through sharing insights and best practices, together we can shape the future of the financial services industry and support improved access to qualified, ethical financial advice and resources for all.
For this week’s spotlight, we interviewed Susan Weiner, Boston-based editor of the NAPFA Advisor, writer-editor, and writing coach for investment and wealth management firms.
What made you decide to pursue a career in finance?
I never thought earning a doctorate in Japanese history would lead me to a career in finance. However, I realized by the time I finished my degree that I didn’t want to teach in a university. I learned about other history Ph.D.s who’d used their analytical and writing abilities to become portfolio managers or analysts, so I started the CFA (chartered financial analyst) program. While studying for the test, I landed a job working for an institutional asset management firm with Japanese clients. I’ve also worked for a bank-owned investment management firm and a weekly trade publication about the mutual fund industry. Along the way, I realized I enjoy taking complex subject matter—like Japanese political history of the 1930s or technical financial topics—and making them clear.
What part of your work gives you the most satisfaction?
I work with smart people who have interesting ideas, but lack the time or skill to put them into persuasive writing. It’s rewarding to help experts’ ideas get the recognition they deserve.
I typically serve as a ghostwriter or an editor. However, to help firms with smaller budgets, I offer classes, coaching, and a book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Blog Posts That Attract Clients.
What needs to be done to diversify the financial services industry?
I collected some great ideas from NAPFA members in my editor’s column on “How advisors can fight racism.” As those members suggested, people who work in financial services can make a difference as individuals by talking about the topic, educating themselves, and building relationships with individuals from diverse backgrounds. It’s also important that firms work to serve diverse clients, and to recruit and retain diverse employees, advisory boards, and vendors. This is just the beginning.
What advice would you give financial professionals just beginning their career?
Learn to communicate well. Of course, I think they should learn to write well. The world’s best ideas don’t mean anything if you can’t move people to act on them. Whether you’re writing an equity research report, a marketing email, a resume, or a blog post, good writing will boost the impact of your ideas. Because I teach writing workshops and do coaching, I’ve met some very smart investment professionals whose careers have been held back by their weak writing skills.
In addition to writing, good oral communication and presentation skills are important. For example, don’t do what I did when I first taught How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read. Back then, I read my slides word-by-word. After some tough love, I invested in working with a speaking coach, and now I use my slides as prompts.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
In my spare time, I enjoy bicycling and growing flowers in my shady garden. One of my favorite trips was a bicycle and barge trip from Amsterdam to Brussels. Bicycling has worked its way into several of my blog posts about financial writing. I should look for gardening analogies to work into future posts.