Working at a financial copywriting agency

by Darren Clare

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An interview with our Content Strategist, Claire

One of our junior writers, Alice, takes a break from financial writing to interview Claire, our content strategist, about the role of a financial copywriting agency, and how it compares to her time client-side.

Given your unique position as a content strategy director with global experience both client and agency side, how can a financial copywriting agency create relevant and engaging copy?

Financial institutions can suffer from what we call ‘the curse of knowledge’ – and it’s easy to fall victim to it. Once you start working in the financial sector, you become accustomed to the language used by those around you. As time goes on, it’s hard to remember what the person on the street understands. You forget which words are jargon, and before long you’re speaking a language no one else understands.
One of the real challenges in financial copywriting is maintaining a sense of perspective. One of the best things you can do is ask people from a different background to check your work. This external viewpoint is one of the key elements a financial copywriting agency can and should bring to the table.

How can clients make the most of a financial copywriting agency’s services?

One of the challenges clients have when approaching a project is to focus on what they want to achieve, rather what they want to do. A preconceived idea of what they want to produce, can negatively impact what is actually best. This usually happens when they’re caught up in internal processes and are used to tackling a certain job in a certain way. But it can curb creativity and limit the impact of the final copy.
Instead of coming to us with a draft, clients should tell us what they want to achieve if they’re to make the most of our services. This allows us to bring completely fresh thinking to the project and potentially suggest better ways to structure and articulate the content.

How has financial copywriting changed over the years?

In the past, financial institutions assumed the public wouldn’t understand complex financial information, so didn’t take the time to explain it. Companies often hid behind technical language rather than communicating clearly with everyone. Frankly, the approach was bordering on patronising.
But since the financial crisis of 2008, mistrust of the financial services sector has grown, and customers want to know what financial institutions are up to and how it affects them. Today, it’s expected that companies are accountable for their actions and able to clearly state what they’re doing and why – without glossing over the “boring bits” or seeking to hide behind jargon.
Also, new technologies like mobile devices, apps and social media have brought financial institutions closer to their customers, changing the way financial services copywriting agencies communicate. The language that’s used on these platforms is generally more casual than we’d have seen in an old school printed letter from a bank.
And because institutions are trying to get noticed on these new platforms, their content needs to rank highly on search engines and be easily scannable, so good financial copywriting makes sure this is achieved too.

What place does informality have in financial copywriting today?

Like any form of communication, you have to remember the audience you’re writing for and the context in which they’re reading it. Some projects will call for more direct or casual language, particularly if it’s aimed at customers looking to save time by managing their finances from a mobile device.
Apps like Monzo and Bee are doing great work in demystifying money management for younger generations. But if they were writing to a customer about financial arrangements following the death of their spouse, overly familiar copy would be completely inappropriate. There are – and have been – some cases where a flippant or irreverent tone is hugely damaging to a company.
Certain messages, particularly if they contain important information, should be formal and respectful. We also need to remember there are older generations that don’t want to have a joke with their banking provider, so financial copywriters must strike a balance.

How can copywriters bring in experience and expertise from outside of financial services?

One of the reasons clients turn to a financial copywriting agency is the new thinking it can inject into projects. Stratton Craig has a specialism in financial services, but we also write across a range of other sectors. This means we can make recommendations to clients who don’t have the time to be on the lookout for the next big idea. Our financial services hat is never far away, so when we see something relevant or interesting, we are always thinking about how we can apply it to our financial services clients.

More from Alice and Claire

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