Email Communication Etiquette Best Practices in Investment Operations
Err on the Side of Formal
- Use a clear and relevant subject title pertinent to the message
- Address the recipient by the appropriate name or title at the beginning of the message.
- For greetings, use “Hi” instead of “Hey”.
- End the message with a “Thank you” along with your name or signature.
- Avoid slang and colloquial words like “wanna”, “gonna”, “and “y’all”.
- Avoid informal and less common acronyms.
- Use emojis and emoticons appropriately. (This article can help explain how to use the symbols in business communication.)
Pay Attention to Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling
Whether we like it or not, written communication says a lot about a person. Not knowing the differences between “there”, “their”, and “they’re” or “your” vs. “you’re” makes one look less professional in business.
It’s bad enough if you’re committing these errors in internal emails, but if you’re emailing clients with poorly structured and worded sentences, the recipient will think less of your investment organization and the products and services offered.
For starters, most email applications have spell and grammar check features. Make sure the functions are available and your operations staff are using them. If you don’t want them solely reliant on software, there are numerous online resources and professional services to help your employees improve their English writing skills. FluentU published a useful piece on 5 online business English writing courses and resources to make your writing more effective.
Another helpful article is one from Inc. about 17 spelling errors that make you look really unprofessional.
We’re human. We aren’t going to be happy all the time, and in email, there are times we have to express dissatisfaction.
If you or staff need to express anger, ideally it would be better to have direct conversations rather than keep a permanent record in email.
But if anger is to be shown in email, here a few suggestions:
Avoid caps lock
Showing anger and frustration by writing in all capital letters shows a lack of emotional control, and it’s embarrassing. Your message will be better received if it’s written with proper casing.
Keep angry exclamation points to a minimum
It’s bad enough when using all caps to express anger, but the icing on the cake comes in the form of multiple exclamation points. Adding more than one exclamation point is excessive, and like caps lock, it shows one’s inability to control emotions in the cyberspace, which is also embarrassing.
If you’re angry and asking a (loaded) question, avoid mixing exclamation points with the question marks.
Do not curse
Use of swear words is very unprofessional in business, and foul language – even in writing – can be viewed as intimidating and contributing to a hostile work environment.
While there indeed may be some health benefits to cursing, the workplace is not the place to be dropping f-bombs.
Don’t be sarcastic
Sarcasm can be a great form of humor, but when someone is 1) at work 2) upset 3) and writing an email, then sarcasm can be a bad thing. It’s one thing to show anger in the form of caps locks and excessive exclamation points, but snide remarks in the form of sarcasm are a personal insult to the recipient, and the sender runs the risk of permanent damage to a working relationship with someone.
Avoid Sending Non-Business Related Emails
Wishing someone a happy birthday or congratulating someone on getting married or having a baby is fine, but the bigger issue is with non-work related emails that may be offensive or distracting.
Unless a government policy has a direct effect on your organization and merits serious discussion at work, emails of political nature or those relating to sensitive topics should be avoided. Even if the recipients are like-minded, non-work emails are still distracting.
Besides, what if something was sent to someone who was not the intended recipient? What if the unintended recipient is a client? Do they really need to see this?
Everyone has opinions, and in the right context, people can express how they feel. However, the company email address should be for work matters only.
Let Your Back-Office Team Know Their Emails Are Monitored
When your staff is using company email addresses, remind them that they are representing the advisory firm and that their emails are not private. As operations leader, you should be able to see the messages they send internally and externally, providing feedback when necessary. If your operations team knows their emails are being “watched”, they’ll be less inclined to commit the aforementioned mistakes.
Email Etiquette Makes a Difference
Bad email communication etiquette makes your investment management company look less professional, and it can turn away business. Even if your back-office team is not sending external emails, promoting professionalism across the board is good practice, because it reinforces to everyone the high standard which your organization holds itself to.
And it’s that high standard that makes your advisory firm look more trustworthy and credible in the eyes of current and prospective clients.
Being more formal than informal, paying attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation, controlling emotions, and not sending messages unrelated to work are good habits to instill in your operations team (make sure you follow the rules, too).
By following these email communication best practices, your investment operation is mastering a small yet big part in maintaining a reputable image from within and without the organization.