Avoiding Bureaucratic Phrasing


Employees developed plans during the course of the project in order to create a standardized process with respect to regulation guidelines.

Did you understand that sentence reading through the first time? The sentence is filled with bureaucratic phrasing which makes the information more complex than necessary.

In the workplace, “bureaucratic” means involving complicated rules and processes that make something unnecessarily slow and difficult. People tend to use this style of phrasing because they believe there is permanence in writing. Say something and it’s gone, but write it down and it’s with us forever.

When people believe their writing is out there for all to see, they want to sound as professional and as knowledgeable as possible. But adding bureaucratic language isn’t the best way to sound like an expert. Many complex phrases read better when they are stripped down into simple words. For example, in the original sentence above, “in order to” can be reduced to “to” and “during the course of” can be simplified to “during”:

Employees developed plans during the project to create a standardized process with respect to regulation guidelines.

Using bureaucratic phrasing can make readers feel inadequate and indirectly exclude them from the conversation. This is why using plain, straightforward language in your writing is recommended instead.

The key is learning how to turn those overly complex phrases into simple words that mean the same thing. Here are some examples:

Bureaucratic PhraseSimple Word / Phrase
Along the lines ofLike
As of this dateYet, still, or now
At all timesAlways
Due to the fact thatBecause
Concerning the matter ofAbout
For the purpose ofFor, to
In spite of the fact thatAlthough

One guideline is to avoid words and phrases that you would not use in everyday speech. You would never say, “May I look over your paper in the near future in order to review it?” Why write it?

The goal of any documentation, whether it be a technical design document or an email, is to state your main point in a simple manner. Your readers should be able to easily find important information, quickly understand what information they should store for later use, and immediately recognize what is being asked of them. Avoiding bureaucratic phrasing can help you accomplish this.

Resources:

  • Hopkins, Graham. Why bureaucratic jargon is just a pompous waste of words. 12 Sept. 2000. The Guardian.
  • Richard Johnson-Sheehan. “Technical Communication Today: Special Edition for Society for Technical Communication Foundation Certification”. Fifth Edition.

Samantha Zerger, business analytics consultant with FRG, is skilled in technical writing. Since graduating from the North Carolina State University’s Financial Mathematics Master’s program in 2017 and joining FRG, she has taken on leadership roles in developing project documentation as well as improving internal documentation processes.

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Improving Business Email

 

How COVID-19 Could Affect Private Capital Investors

A new blog by Preqin explores what COVID-19 could mean for private capital investors.

FRG and Preqin, an industry-leading provider of data, analytics and insights for the alternative assets community, partnered to develop a novel cash flow prediction model. The model is guided by FRG’s innovative methodology and powered by Preqin’s fund-level cash flow data.

Analysts used this tool in conjunction with the release of FRG’s Pandemic Economic Scenario to assess the impact of a recession triggered by the novel coronavirus on capital calls, distributions and net cash flows.

In the blog, Preqin’s Jonathon Furer examines an analysis created by FRG.  Jonathon explores the pandemic’s effect focused on 2017-2019 vintage funds, which represent 72% of the $2.63tn in callable dry powder that the private capital industry has raised since 2000. “Assuming the global economy undergoes a significant but brief recession, and then recovers, our model suggests GPs will respond in two stages,” Furer writes.

Read about the projected stages in the full analysis, Why COVID-19 Means Investors Should Expect Lower Capital Calls and Distributions in 2020.

FRG has 20+ years of experience applying stress testing to portfolios for banks and asset allocators. We developed this unique model enabling investors to stress test private capital portfolios for a wide range of macroeconomic shocks. We are ready to help investors looking to better understand portfolio dynamics for capital planning and pacing, or risk control for a black swan event.

Download the Pandemic Economic Scenario or get in contact with Preqin at info@preqin.com for the most accurate private capital cash flow forecasting model.

If FRG can help you better understand the effects of macroeconomic shocks on your private capital portfolios, contact us at info@frgrisk.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Is a Pandemic Scenario Just a Recession Scenario?



Recently, I wrote about how a pandemic might be a useful scenario to have for scenario analysis. As I thought about how I might design such a scenario I considered: should I assume a global recession for the pandemic scenario?

A pandemic, by definition, is an outbreak of a disease that affects people around the globe. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that it would slow the flow of goods and services through the world. Repercussions would be felt everywhere – from businesses reliant on tourism and travel to companies dependent on products manufactured in countries hit the hardest.

For an initial pass, using a recession seems sensible. However, I believe this “shortcut” omits a key trait needed for scenario development: creativity.

The best scenarios, I find, come from brainstorming sessions. These sessions allow challenges to be made to status quo and preconceptions. They also help identify risk and opportunity.

To immediately consider a recession scenario as “the pandemic scenario,” then, might not be advantageous in the long run.

As an exercise, I challenged myself to come up with questions that aren’t immediately answered when assuming a generic recession. Some that I asked were:

  • How do customers use my business? Do they need to be physically present to purchase my goods or use my services?
  • How will my business be impacted if my employees are not able to come into work?
  • What will happen to my business if there is a temporary shortage of a product I need? What will happen if there is a drawn-out shortage?
  • How dependent is my business on goods and services provided by other countries? Do these countries have processes in place to contain or slow down the spread of the disease?
  • Does my business reside in a region of the country that makes it more susceptible to the impact of a pandemic (e.g., ports, major airports, large manufacturing)?
  • How are my products and services used by other countries?
  • How can my company use technology to mitigate the impacts of a pandemic?
  • Is there a difference in the impact to my company if the pandemic is slow moving versus fast moving?

These are just a few of the many questions to consider for this analysis. Ultimately, the choice of whether to use a recession or not rests with the scenario development committee. To make the most informed decision, I would urge the committee to make questions like these a part of the discussion rather than taking the “shortcut” approach.

Jonathan Leonardelli, FRM, Director of Business Analytics for FRG, leads the group responsible for model development, data science, documentation, testing, and training. He has over 15 years’ experience in the area of financial risk.


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The Financial Risk Group Is Now FRG

We’re making it official: After more than a decade of operating as “The Financial Risk Group,” we’re changing our name to reflect what our clients have called us since the early days. We are excited to formally debut our streamlined “FRG” brand and logo.

Our new look is a natural progression from where we started 14 years ago, when the three founding partners of this company set a lofty goal. We wanted to become the premier risk management consulting company. It seemed ambitious, considering we were operating out of Ron Holanek’s basement at the time, but we knew we had at least two things going for us: a solid business plan and a drive to do whatever it took to deliver success for our clients.

And look at us now. It would take a while to list everything we’ve accomplished over the last decade plus, but here’s a quick run down of some of the items we’ve crossed off the company bucket list since 2006.

  • We’ve grown our numbers from the original three to more than 50 talented risk consultants, analysts, and developers.
  • We moved out of the basement (it would have been a tight fit, considering). We settled in historic downtown Cary in 2008, but quickly spilled out of our main office there and into several satellite locations. In 2018 we bought an older building a few blocks away and renovated it to a gleaming modern office hub for our US headquarters.
  • We opened offices in Toronto, Canada and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to better serve our clients around the world.
  • We opened several new business units, expanding on our original core focus of delivering automated technology solutions. Adding dedicated Data and Risk, Business Analytics, and Platform Hosting teams enlarged our wheelhouse, so that we have experts that can walk our clients through the entire lifecycle of risk management programs. (Shameless plug: you can learn more about a number of them via a series of videos that are sprinkled throughout the website). We now also work with institutional investors on innovative models and product offerings to help streamline processes and drive excess returns.
  • We formalized our NEET (New Employee Excellence Training) apprenticeship program, so we can nurture and enhance the specific blend of skills that risk management professionals need to solve real-world business challenges. The program has struck a chord with our clients, so we built a program to recruit and develop risk management talent for them, as well.

Obviously, we couldn’t have done any of this without continued trust and support from our clients. Our clientele represents a cross section of the world’s largest banking, capital markets, insurance, energy and commodity firms – stretching across continents and across industries – and we recognize that they’re some very smart people. When they talk, we listen, and what they have been saying for a few years now is that the brand we started with in 2006 should evolve with the evolution of the company.

It is natural for people to streamline words into acronyms.  In our industry, there are many, and knowing them is very important to our job.  Our clients, partners, and even our internal teams used FRG from day one, but now is the time to make it official.  By rebranding and fully embracing the FRG name, we hope that it, too, becomes a well-known acronym in the risk management space, one that people equate with integrity and quality of work.

So we’re celebrating 2020 with the new name, a new look, and a new logo. But it’s like they say. The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s why you can be sure that our core values, our core principle – to fulfill our clients’ needs, while surpassing their expectations – still guide us every day. We are our reputation. We are FRG.

Mike Forno is a Partner and Senior Director of Sales with FRG.

 

Stress Testing Private Equity


FRG, partnered with Preqin, has developed a system for simulating cash flows for private capital investments (PCF).  PCF allows the analyst to change assumptions about future economic scenarios and investigate the changes in the output cash flows.  This post will pick a Venture fund, shock the economy for a mild recession in the following quarters, and view the change in cash flow projections.

FRG develops scenarios for our clients.  Our most often used scenarios are the “Growth” or “Base” scenario, and the “Recession” scenario.  Both scenarios are based on the Federal Reserve’s CCAR scenarios “Base” and “Adverse”, published yearly and used for banking stress tests.

The “Growth” scenario (using the FED “Base” scenario) assumes economic growth more or less in line with recent experience.

The “Recession” scenario (FED “Adverse”) contains a mild recession starting late 2019, bottoming in Q2 2020.  GDP recovers back to its starting value in Q2 2021.  The recovery back to trend line (potential) GDP goes through Q2 2023.

Real GPD Growth chart

 

The economic drawdown is mild, the economy only loses 1.4% from the high.

Start DateTrough DateRecovery DateFull PotentialDepth
Q4 2019Q2 2020Q2 2021Q2 2023-1.4%

Equity market returns are a strong driver of performance in private capital.  The total equity market returns in the scenarios include a 34% drawdown in the index.  The market fully bottoms in Q1 2022, and has recovered to new highs by Q1 2023.

This draw down is shallow compared to previous history and the recovery period shorter:

Begin DateTrough DateRecovery DateDepthTotal LengthTrough Recovery
06/30/200009/30/200212/31/2006-47%271017
12/31/200703/31/200903/31/2013-49%22616
12/31/201903/31/202203/31/2024-34%18108

The .COM and Global Financial Crisis (GFC) recessions took off nearly 50% of the market value.  This recession only draws down 34%.  The time from the peak to the trough is 10 and 6 quarters for the .COM and GCF respectively.  Here we are inline with the .COM crash with a 10-quarter peak to trough period.  This recovery is faster by nearly double than either of the recent large drawdowns at 8 quarters versus 17 and 16.

We start by picking a 2016 vintage venture capital fund.  This fund has called around 89% of its committed capital, has an RVPI of 0.85 and currently sports about an 18% IRR.  For this exercise, we assume a $10,000,000 commitment.

Feeding the two scenarios, this fund, and a few other estimates into the PCF engine, we can see a dramatic shift in expected J-curve.

Under the “Growth” scenario, the fund’s payback date (date where total cash flow is positive) is Q1 2023.  The recession prolongs the payback period, with the expected payback date being Q3 2025, an additional 2.5 years.  Further, the total cash returned to investors is much lower.

This lower cash returned as well as the lengthening of the payback period have a dramatic effect on the fund IRR.

That small recession drops the expected IRR of the fund a full 7% annualized.  The distribution shown in the box and whisker plot above illustrates the dramatic shift in possible outcomes.  Whereas before, there were only a few scenarios where the fund returned a negative IRR, in the recession nearly a quarter of all scenarios produced a negative return.  There are more than a few cases where the fund’s IRR is well below -10% annually!

This type of analysis should provide investors in private capital food for thought.  How well do your return expectations hold up during an economic slowdown?  What does the distribution of expected cash flows and returns tell you about the risk in your portfolio?

At FRG, we specialize in helping people answer these questions.  If you would like to learn more, please visit www.frgrisk.com/vor-pcf  or contact us.

Dominic Pazzula is a Director with FRG, specializing in asset allocation and risk management. He has more than 15 years of experience evaluating risk at a portfolio level and managing asset allocation funds. He is responsible for product design of FRG’s asset allocation software offerings and consults with clients helping to apply the latest technologies to solve their risk, reporting, and allocation challenges.

 

 

CECL Preparation: How Embracing SR 11-7 Guidelines Can Support the CECL Process

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System’s SR 11-7 supervisory guidance (2011) provides an effective model risk management framework for financial institutions (FI’s). SR 11-7 covers everything from the definition of a model to the robust policies/procedures that should exist within a model risk management framework. To reduce model risk, any FI should consider following the guidance throughout internal and regulatory processes as its guidelines are comprehensive and reflect a banking industry standard.

The following items and quotations represent an overview of the SR 11-7 guidelines (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2011):

  1. The definition of a model – “the term model refers to a quantitative method, system, or approach that applies statistical, economic, financial, or mathematical theories, techniques, and assumptions to process input data into quantitative estimates.”
  2. A focus on the purpose/use of a model – “even a fundamentally sound model producing accurate outputs consistent with the design objective of the model may exhibit high model risk if it is misapplied or misused.”
  3. The three elements of model risk management:
    • Robust model development, implementation, and use – “the design, theory, logic underlying the model should be well documented and generally supported by published research and sound industry practice.”
    • Sound model validation process – “an effective validation framework should include three core elements: evaluation of conceptual soundness, …, ongoing monitoring, …, and benchmarking, outcomes analysis, …”
    • Governance – “a strong governance framework provides explicit support and structure to risk management functions through policies defining relevant risk management activities, procedures that implement those policies, allocation of resources, and mechanisms for evaluating whether policies and procedures are being carried out as specified.”

The majority of what the SR 11-7 guidelines discuss applies to some of the new aspects from the accounting standard CECL (FASB, 2016). Any FI under CECL regulation must provide explanations, justifications, and rationales for the entirety of the CECL process including (but not limited to) model development, validation, and governance. The SR 11-7 guidelines will help FI’s develop effective CECL processes in order to limit model risk.

Some considerations from the SR 11-7 guidelines in regards to the components of CECL include (but are not limited to):

  • Determining appropriateness of data and models for CECL purposes. Existing processes may need to be modified due to some differing CECL requirements (e.g., life of loan loss estimation).
  • Completing comprehensive documentation and testing of model development processes. Existing documentation may need to be updated to comply with CECL (e.g., new models or implementation processes).
  • Accounting for model uncertainty and inaccuracy through the understanding of potential limitations/assumptions. Existing model documentation may need to be re-evaluated to determine if new limitations/assumptions exist under CECL.
  • Ensuring validation independence from model development. Existing validation groups may need to be further separated from model development (e.g., external validators).
  • Developing a strong governance framework specifically for CECL purposes. Existing policies/procedures may need to be modified to ensure CECL processes are being covered.

The SR 11-7 guidelines can provide FI’s with the information they need to start their CECL process. Although not mandated, following these guidelines overall is important in reducing model risk and in establishing standards that all teams within and across FI’s can follow and can regard as a true industry standard.

Resources:

  1. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. “SR 11-7 Guidance on Model Risk Management”. April 4, 2011.
  2. Daniel Brown and Dr. Craig Peters. “New Impairment Model: Governance Considerations”. Moody’s Analytics Risk Perspectives. The Convergence of Risk, Finance, and Accounting: CECL. Volume VIII. November 2016.
  3. Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). Financial Instruments – Credit Losses (Topic 326). No. 2016-13. June 2016.

Samantha Zerger, business analytics consultant with FRG, is skilled in technical writing. Since graduating from the North Carolina State University’s Financial Mathematics Master’s program in 2017 and joining FRG, she has taken on leadership roles in developing project documentation as well as improving internal documentation processes.

 

Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

This is the fifth post in an occasional series about the importance of technical communication in the workplace.

 “Work organisations are not only using and applying knowledge produced in the university but they are also producing, transforming, and managing knowledge by themselves to create innovations (Tynjälä, Slotte, Nieminen, Lonka, & Olkinuora, 2006)”.

Problem-solving skills are rooted in the fact that you must learn how to think, not what to think. Most classes in high schools and colleges teach you what to think (e.g., history dates, mathematical equations, grammar rules), but you must learn further problem-solving skills in order to help you learn how to think.

In the technical workplace, you are expected to be able to be given a problem and come up with a solution; a solution that possibly has never been thought of before. Employers are looking for people that have the right skills in order to do that very thing. Because of this, most interview processes will inevitably include at least one problem-solving question.

  • “How have you handled a problem in your past? What was the result?”
  • “How would you settle the concerns of a client?”
  • “How would you handle a tight deadline on a project?”

The way you answer the problem-solving question usually gives the interviewer a good sense of your problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, for the interviewee, problem solving is grouped into a BROAD skill set made up of:

  • Active listening: in order to identify that there is a problem
  • Research: in order to identify the cause of the problem
  • Analysis: in order to fully understand the problem
  • Creativity: in order to come up with a solution, either based on your current knowledge (intuitively) or using creative thinking skills (systematically)
  • Decision making: in order to make a decision on how to solve the problem
  • Communication: in order to communicate the issue or your solution to others
  • Teamwork: in order to work with others to solve the problem
  • Dependability: in order to solve the problem in a timely manner

So how do you, as the interviewee, convey that you have good problem-solving skills? First, acknowledge the skill set needed to solve the problem relating to each step in the problem-solving process:

Step in Problem SolvingSkill Set Needed
1. Identifying the problemActive listening, research
2. Understanding and structuring the problemAnalysis
3. Searching for possible solutions or coming up with your own solutionCreativity, communication
4. Making a decisionDecision making
5. Implementing a solutionTeamwork, dependability, communication
6. Monitoring the problem and seeking feedbackActive listening, dependability, communication

Then, note how you are either planning to or are improving your problem-solving skills. This may include gaining more technical knowledge in your field, putting yourself in new situations where you may need to problem solve, observing others who are known for their good problem-solving skills, or simply practicing problems on your own. Problem solving involves a diverse skill set and is key to surviving in a technical workplace.

Resources:

  1. Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples. Indeed Career Guide.
  2. Tynjälä, Päivi & Slotte, Virpi & Nieminen, Juha & Lonka, Kirsti & Olkinuora, Erkki. (2006). From university to working life: Graduates’ workplace skills in practice.

 

Samantha Zerger, business analytics consultant with the Financial Risk Group, is skilled in technical writing. Since graduating from the North Carolina State University’s Financial Mathematics Master’s program in 2017 and joining FRG, she has taken on leadership roles in developing project documentation as well as improving internal documentation processes.

 

 

The Importance of Good Teamwork in the Technical Workplace

This is the fourth post in an occasional series about the importance of technical communication in the workplace.

Daily teamwork is an essential part of technical workplace success. Strong technical communication and collaboration skills are necessary to be an active and successful member of a team working to achieve a common goal.

When thinking about the term teamwork, the collaborative effort of a team, many associate Tuckman’s stages (1965) of team development: forming, storming, norming, and performing. In 1977, Tuckman added a fifth stage: adjourning.

  1. Forming – This stage involves the meeting of all the team members, discussions of each member’s skills, and dividing up of responsibilities.
  2. Storming – This stage involves the sharing of ideas among the members. Team leaders must resolve any challenges/competition between members and ensure that the project is moving forward.
  3. Norming – This stage involves the complete understanding of a common goal and responsibilities among members. Major conflicts are resolved.
  4. Performing – This stage involves the team members working efficiently together with minimal issues. The project work should continue on schedule.
  5. Adjourning – This stage involves the team members reaching their project end and going their separate ways onto new projects.

Although Tuckman’s stages represent a standard team development flow, there is much more to think about as a member of that team. How should I converse with others during a conflict in the Storming stage? How should I discuss my skills with other members in the Forming stage? How do I ensure that I do not fall behind the project schedule in the Performing stage?

Here are some tips that may help you in the different stages of team development:

  • Be flexible in your work. In the Forming stage, you may be asked to complete a task that you may not particularly enjoy. Thus, in order to be a good team member, you must be flexible enough to say that you will complete the task to reach the team’s common goal.
  • Complete your tasks in a timely manner. In the Performing stage, keep track of your own responsibilities and when the tasks are due. Communicate freely with the leader of the team throughout the stage to keep up-to-date on the team’s activities. If possible, finish your tasks early and offer help to other team members.
  • Avoid conflicts. In the Storming stage, some conflict is certain but there are ways to avoid larger conflicts with other team members.
    • Be aware of other member’s attitudes towards certain topics. Speak about those topics in smaller settings.
    • Offer compromises when tensions start to rise. The compromises might seem more appealing than the associated conflicts.
    • Attempt to resolve conflicts as soon as possible. The quicker they are resolved, the quicker the project can move forward.
    • Communicate face-to-face. Sometimes words get lost in translation.
  • Communicate often. Throughout the stages, make it a point to communicate with the team leader and other members of the team on a continual basis. This may include sending your status updates to the team leader, asking questions about your tasks, or simply checking in with other members.

All in all, it is important to be a team player. Every team member should be on the same side: the one that completes the project efficiently, successfully, and with minimal headaches.

Resources

  • Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Development sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.

Samantha Zerger, business analytics consultant with the Financial Risk Group, is skilled in technical writing. Since graduating from the North Carolina State University’s Financial Mathematics Master’s program in 2017 and joining FRG, she has taken on leadership roles in developing project documentation as well as improving internal documentation processes.

Improving Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

This is the third post in an occasional series about the importance of technical communication in the workplace.

The ability to speak and portray yourself professionally, efficiently, and effectively are the most important business skills any person can have other than skills required by a job title. Those who have impressive verbal/non-verbal communication skills on day one of a new job or during an interview stand out as strong, confident employees or candidates. Those who give a strong presentation during a conference or to coworkers stand out as experts in their field. Those who speak up and intelligently portray their thoughts on a matter stand out as leaders.

Communicating with others during an interview, presentation, or meeting can be daunting for some, especially if they lack experience in a work environment. Those with more experience in the workplace tend to understand how to portray the necessary information in an effective way. Usually these people are managers, executives or, in general, leaders because they are able to communicate in order to get the results they need, whether it be completed tasks or motivated employees.

It is important to note that the term verbal communication relates to the simple use of sounds and words, whereas the term non-verbal communication consists of other forms of communication. The way a person talks is not the only concern; the way a person physically portrays themselves is also important.

Technical Communication Today categorizes a person’s act of presenting a topic to a group by body language, appearance, voice, rhythm and tone. The categories can also be translated to include any type of interaction in the workplace, whether it be one-on-one (e.g., interview), one-to-many (e.g., presentation), or many-to-many (e.g., social gathering). Those five categories help frame the tips we can present to those who lack experience or who want to improve their verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

Focus on your body language
  • Control your facial expressions and think about how they are being conveyed to others. Is your facial expression conveying that you are happy or displeased?
  • Stand/sit up straight and drop your shoulders. Usually those who are nervous tend to slouch and raise their shoulders which limits airflow.
  • Make eye contact with others when they are speaking to you. This indicates that you are paying attention and that you are interested in what they are saying.
Dress for success
  • Dress appropriately for the occasion. Ensure that what you are wearing matches the importance of the situation. When in doubt, dress a level better than you expect others to dress.
Control your voice
  • Enunciate your words and phrases. This ensures that others are hearing you correctly.
  • Project your voice and speak louder than normal when presenting to a large group of people.
Focus on your speaking rhythm
  • Do not be afraid of silence. Embrace the silent moments and make them work in your favor. Use them to emphasize your main points or use them to avoid the um’s and ah’s of nervousness (i.e., think before you speak).
  • Slow your speech. Usually those who are nervous tend to speak too quickly.
Choose a tone for your voice
  • Select a tone based off of the image you want to project; e.g., professional, passionate, pleased.

Also, practice makes perfect. Do not assume that simply reading the above tips is sufficient in improving your skills. Practice and actively concentrate on them on a daily basis to further improve your verbal/non-verbal communication skills. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be in professional settings and in front of an audience.

 

Resources:

  • Richard Johnson-Sheehan. “Technical Communication Today: Special Edition for Society for Technical Communication Foundation Certification”. Fifth Edition.

 

Samantha Zerger, business analytics consultant with the Financial Risk Group, is skilled in technical writing. Since graduating from the North Carolina State University’s Financial Mathematics Master’s program in 2017 and joining FRG, she has taken on leadership roles in developing project documentation as well as improving internal documentation processes.

 

 

Improving Business Email Etiquette

This is the second post in an occasional series about the importance of technical communication in the workplace.

According to The Radicati Group, Inc., based on a worldwide study in 2015, the number of business emails sent and received per user, per day totals 122, with a circulation of 112.5 billion worldwide. These statistics should reflect how much businesses rely on email communication skills on a daily basis. Because of the massive influx of emails, any employee at your workplace could most likely list three pet peeves of theirs regarding email communication. The following are the answers I got from a few FRG employees:

  • Emails that have a missing subject line or have no content
  • Emails that do not have a clear response to your question
  • Emails that do not get to the point quickly or are superfluous

How do we ensure that we are not the employees that are sending the above types of emails? How do we ensure that we are taking advantage of this easy communication tool to be efficient, productive, and constructive in the workplace? How do we ensure that we are communicating in a professional manner?

Follow these rules (in no particular order) on email etiquette to make sure you are sending correct and understandable information.

  1. Keep it simple. Use succinct sentences that get promptly to the point.
  2. Be professional. If you are not positive the receiver of the email knows who you are, briefly introduce yourself (e.g., state your name, job title, and purpose of email).
  3. Make it standalone. Suspect that the person did not read previous emails in the thread. Refresh their memory first on what the discussion was and then continue.
  4. Read the entire email before sending. Ensure that there are no typos and that the content makes sense.
  5. Make no assumptions. Do not assume that others understand what you are saying. Be clear in your statements/questions.
  6. Be consistent. Include a clear and intuitive subject and body content. Ensure that terms are being referenced the same in email threads to avoid confusion (e.g., Financial Risk Group vs. FRG).
  7. Always consider lists. Use bulleted lists to directly group lists, steps, questions, etc. Use numerical or alphabetical lists for items that need to be in a specific order and bullets for items that do not.
  8. Use parallel structure. Construct sentences so that readers can understand difficult concepts more quickly.
    • Parallel structure is especially important when writing lists. Begin each statement with the same part of speech. For example, if explaining steps in a process, use verbs such as type, click, or close to begin each statement.
    • Parallel structure can be used in comparisons. Repeat the same phrases in order to be clear. For example, the new user interface is more user-friendly than the old user interface.
    • Parallel structure can help define the format and/or layout. Repeat the same format and/or layout to ensure consistent organization. For example, if you include a bolded header for one topic, use a bolded header for each topic.

The above rules can be applied to emails sent to any reader, whether it be a co-worker, boss, client, future employer, etc. It is ultimately important to send clear, understandable statements and questions to ensure you receive a productive and expected response.

Samantha Zerger, business analytics consultant with the Financial Risk Group, is skilled in technical writing. Since graduating from the North Carolina State University’s Financial Mathematics Master’s program in 2017 and joining FRG, she has taken on leadership roles in developing project documentation as well as improving internal documentation processes.

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