How to read the FT

Since moving back to a front office seat I have been a keen reader of the Financial Times. Regular reading of economic and finance journalism and analysis is a must if you want to understand the themes discussed around the trading floor.

If you have tried and failed to get into the FT, it may be because (like me once) you weren’t able to see any shape and form in the way things are gathered and reported — so it all just seemed rather more like a difficult-to-read book than a collection of educating and stimulating articles.

Well, this short post may give you some useful indications on how to navigate through the FT and learn to enjoy it.

A quick set of golden rules for the FT

  1. Always buy the Monday edition because it contains the FTfm insert which discusses all the news for the asset-management industry.
  2. Always read The Short View on the front page, especially because it will take only 5 minutes.
  3. Always read Lex on the back page of the main section.
  4. Always read the Comment articles about 2 leafs back from the end of the first section.
  5. Always read the 2 pages of Markets & Investing one leaf in from the last page of the Companies & Markets section.
  6. Don’t ignore the Companies & Markets section. Dip into it and build up to the point where you can enjoy it — more than most other sections, the business news needs you to accumulate knowledge over time so stick with it.

Step-by-step page turning instructions (if you need them)

If the above already seems like too much then try following these instructions:

  1. Read page 1 headlines in the main section: 1 min
  2. Read The Short View on page 1 of the Companies & Markets section: 5 mins
  3. If it is a Monday I now get into the FTfm insert. See below for instructions on that.
  4. Back to the main section, turn to the Comment page (about page 11), choose one of the most interesting articles (Martin Wolf, Gideon Rachman, Samuel Brittan, Wolfgang Manchau, John kay usually have interesting points to make) and read: 10 mins (requires quite a bit of concentration)
  5. Look at the bottom of the previous page and enjoy the Banx single-panel cartoon: 1 min
  6. If there is something else that looked interesting in the Comment articles then read that too.
  7. Go to the back page of this main section and read Lex: 10 mins
  8. Now move on to the Companies & Markets section and browse the front page, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t follow a lot of it as it requires you to accumulate knowledge over time: 1 min
  9. Flip through, keep an eye out for interesting headlines, but head towards the last-but-two page where you find the Markets & Investing double spread.
  10. Usually on the left side or top there is an interesting comment article from a well-known investor or commentator: 5 mins
  11. Typically there is one large article on the left page and one on the right, have a read of one at least: 5 mins
  12. Read the short Trading Post column: 5 mins
  13. Job done 🙂

For the FTfm section:

  1. The first 3-4 pages have longer articles which are all a generally good read and which cover key debates in the asset management industry.
  2. These are usually book-ended by an interview article with a leading investor on about page 4.
  3. The article by Pauline Skypala found a couple of pages after this is always worth reading. She tends to give interesting opinions on key topics affecting the fund management industry (esp pension funds).
  4. There are now only a few pages left of articles, so just browse and choose the most interesting.
  5. End with The Last Word article on the back page (James Mackintosh from The Short View sometimes writes this).
  6. Job done 🙂

Other suggestions

We live in interesting times, so always look for articles that mean something to you now and that will quickly make you feel like you are learning. For the moment I’d suggest focusing on articles that discuss: economics (esp commentary articles), banking, debt worries, ECB, EFSF, recession news, etc.

Like most news services, you will only progressively become familiar with the themes for each topic, theme, industry, which means that the early days are quite a struggle. Persevere, commit to trying to read daily for a couple of weeks and you’ll soon pick things up.

Footnote

I got to thinking that this post is pushing the simplicity concept too far, and was considering pulling it out. But my WordPress dashboard tells me that someone reached the post from a google search of ‘how to read financial times in minutes’.

That’s concrete proof that there is interest out there for simplicity. The post stays!

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