May 4, 2020 Writing for finance: How to stay compliant

By Jacinta Koelewyn

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When writing for finance, the devil is in the details. The reason for this is that writing content for the finance industry is no simple task. Content writers – whether in-house or external – need to navigate various departments, such as eCommerce, risk and compliance, product, and legal. Content writers also need to explain complex things in simple terms that can be easily understood, as well as compliant with various legal guidelines and regulatory bodies, such as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Over the years, our team has worked across a variety of content projects, such as whitepapers, website refreshes and chatbots for the finance space – with brands like Suncorp Group, ME and Lifebroker.

To demystify the topic, we’re showcasing the things we’ve learnt when copywriting for the finance industry.

Address customer needs while staying compliant

Writing for finance is a delicate balancing act between addressing customer needs, careful wording and above all, compliant content.

The finance industry gets a bad rap for being highly convoluted and overly self-interested. A good content writer will help finance companies overcome such pain points to help you better address your customer needs – while staying compliant.

For example, to stay out of hot water, avoid definitive statements such as ‘this will do X’ and instead opt for ‘this could do X’. The reason for this is that you cannot be seen to give financial product advice – only Australian Financial Services (AFS) license holders can do this. ASIC is an independent government body that regulates the corporate sector and is the corporate watchdog for such matters. To write for finance, copywriters must be across some of the ASIC guidelines to better understand what’s acceptable and unacceptable.

Speak like a person

Compliance doesn’t have to be dull. When writing for finance, you can speak like a person without being unprofessional. After all, where we put our money is a highly personal matter. People want to feel that sense of familiarity and trust with banks, so it’s important that finance companies do just this.

When was the last time you had a conversation with someone, even about a serious topic and heard jargon? From our extensive work in the finance sector, we know first-hand how technical language and jargon does nothing to help customers or businesses.

Use active voice

Speak to any copywriter and they will tell you what they think about passive voice. While passive voice can be used sparingly, generally sentences tend to be clunkier, and can lead to a tangle of prepositional phrases.

Active: The dog chased the cat.Passive: The cat was chased by the dog.

Notice how the focus of the sentence has changed using passive voice? In some cases, passive voice may still be the appropriate option. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid or limit using passive voice and opt for active voice. You’re writing will be stronger and more concise.

When writing for finance, this is particularly important, as it can help make things clearer, improve readability and resonate with your readers.

Make it scannable

To make your customer’s life easier, ensure your content is readable and scannable. By doing this, you can help people quickly find the information they need and read what’s important to them.

This can be as simple as breaking up text with bullet points and using clear heading structure and spacing. Oh, and the odd photo or multimedia element doesn’t go astray either.

Don’t forget to tell a story

While nobody knows policies better than in-house teams, the number one mistake we see with copywriting in the finance industry is forgetting to tell a story. Stories help humanise your business and products, and put the focus on people. This can help your audience connect with your business values and benefits, and form better relationships.

By adding meaning and context to financial facts and figures, you can empower your audience to understand why these matter.

Be agile and adaptable

Copywriting for the finance industry is more than writing copy. To do it well, you should expect to work with big teams. Gathering briefs, collecting relevant information, writing content and liaising with stakeholders across several departments for sign-offs is an art form in its own right.

Through digital copywriting and project management skills, Avion has been a valuable addition to financial teams – saving them valuable time and overheads.  

Check out some of our case studies, working across finance, government, education and property. To learn more about how we can assist you with copywriting or content strategy services, get in touch with us today.