Wisdom not waffle: 4 tips for engaging reports!

One of the key skills for any Paraplanner is to write clear effective reports. What do we think about when we write a report? In this article I want to give you some practical tips that I have found helpful.

Tip 1: The report is worthless – the message is where the money is

The report that you have slaved over for hours, days or even weeks is worthless! Ruffled your feathers? The report is only of importance to you (your Magnus Opus) and possibly your compliance department. You are the person who has placed a value on it, but who is important?

Our job as paraplanners is to help our clients to understand what the adviser is recommending to them to help them achieve their objectives. I emphasise the word ‘them’ in that sentence. Our job is to communicate and it so happens that we do this through the medium of a report. It is the message that is valuable – not the report; focus your time and energy on the message.

Tip 2: What matters to the client is what matters most

Put simply remember the client’s objectives. This is why they have engaged your firm and are paying your fees. They care about their objective and want to deal with it. So if you want a client to remain interested – and buy in to your recommendation – keep talking in terms of their objectives. Don’t be afraid to keep drawing back to it like the chorus to a pop tune.

A good report should affirm to a client that they have been understood and that we care about their objective. If they don’t believe this, then even the best technical analysis or tax planning recommendation will fall on deaf ears.

Tip 3: Wisdom is not equal to waffle; it’s the why that counts

We may well find it fascinating exactly how and why a particular product works, but we need to make sure that we are communicating well. We need to make sure that the client is equipped to make an educated decision, but we do not need to equip them with an education. Let’s be careful to ensure that we don’t go off on a tangent exploring an irrelevant technical detail.

There is a notable tension between the desire to be succinct and justifying our fees. Don’t pad out a report with waffle. The value is in the solution being communicated. Demonstrate the solution and communicate it well. Waffle and padding is obvious to all and shows that you don’t believe in what you are recommending (and quite possibly don’t understand it either). Why would you trust – and buy from – someone who didn’t believe what they were saying? If you want to show value for money make sure you communicate that you understand the client’s objectives.

Tip 4: Stories stick; essays evaporate

The first written documents we are exposed to are normally stories; you are more likely to remember a story than the content of an essay. Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. Set out the structure of your report before you write the content. Put milestones in your document so that you stay on track. Remember that the lead character is your client and their money is the leading lady! The objectives are the love interest and the hero is your solution. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusion about the identity of the villain!

Setting the scene is important and so is properly introducing the characters. Make sure that your report gives the relevant context to the matter you are discussing. But make sure that you don’t get stuck describing the financial planning vista that the client is currently sat upon. Your report should have a logical progression and an engaging plotline.

Words like you, your, our and we can make the report more engaging. Take your client on a journey from their objectives to the solution via their circumstances. Tell them their story!

To read this piece in full head over to http://professionalparaplanner.co.uk/four-tips-to-writing-reports-that-clients-will-read/

About Dan Atkinson

A Paraplanner at EQ Investors since August 2010, Dan’s Music Technology degree helps him approach Financial Planning problems creatively. IFP Paraplanner of the Year 2014 and member of the PFS Paraplanner Practitioner Panel, Dan is working towards Chartered status and recently became a CISI Accredited Paraplanner. Dan is also involved in youth work at his local Church in Hatfield.

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