The world of financial printing

Written by Mark Collard

Financial document typesetting

There have been financial print companies based in the City of London for many years, but prior to 2000 when I starting work for a London based financial print company I knew very little about them and the type of work they produce. Throughout my career in print I had seen adverts in the Daily Mail for Financial Typesetters and presumed it involved typesetting literature, brochures, forms etc for banks. After spending several years working in reprographics for a screen printing company I replied to a Daily Mail advert for a Financial Typesetter and so began my career in financial print.

I soon realised that financial print involved producing large documents anything up to 500 pages, and that they needed to be styled and formatted to a high standard. As someone who enjoys putting his typographic skills to good use I hope there is a demand for this type of document for many years to come. That will depend on whether the London Stock Exchange require that a printed prospectus be published by a company before its securities can be listed and admitted to trading on the Main Market. A prospectus sets out detailed information about a company’s business, management and financial information. The company wishing to be listed appoints a sponsor and a lawyer to guide it through the process. This is where the financial print company comes in. The lawyer will put together an initial draft prospectus (normally in microsoft word) and then get quotes from one of the various financial print companies based in London.

The printer that wins the job will then begin the process of typesetting the document to a specified style using one of several templates they have. In the past this kind of work would of been typeset on code driven typesetting systems and publishing systems like the 3B2. Nowadays in my experience most of the financial print companies use more print friendly software like QuarkXpress on Apple Mac computers. All the financial documents I have worked on have been created using QuarkXpress.

Larger documents I have worked on have been divided into sections so that several typesetters can work on the same document at once to ensure a quick turnaround. Some documents have report and accounts sections dropped in which requires making individual eps files of each page and then dropped into a quark document. Charts, diagrams and maps are usually re-drawn using programmes like Illustrator and Freehand.

I did wonder when I first started working in financial print why the Word document that had been put together to a reasonable standard would be discarded and only the keystrokes used. The main reason why the Word document is not used to work with is that the track changes facility in this programme is not up to the task. This is where the use of the “Blacklining” extension comes in. Blacklining is essential as it allows the typesetter to retain a complete audit trail of all changes made to text. It tracks the changes made to the text of a document as it is being revised. It also allows the person viewing the document to see a complete history of changes that have occurred over a number of different proof levels. Blacklining has the unique feature of tracking different proof levels. By choosing different proof levels it is possible to show a complete history of all the text changes made to a document as it passes through the revision process. It works in a similar way to words track changes in that text inserts are shown as underlines and text deletes can either be shown as strike through, or have a carat mark from where text has been deleted.

Once the document is finished it is then pieced together and a pdf made before it is sent back to the lawyer. The document will now go back and forth between the lawyer and printer for revision. This process can take anything from a couple of days to several months and incorporating anything from 1 proof level to over 20. This is also the time when a financial printers conference facilities are put to good use whereby a legal team can stay for several days proofing their document. When the legal team has finished revising the document and it has been approved by the UK Listing Authority a press quality pdf is made and the job printed.

There are still several financial print companies based in or around the city of London although in recent years some of them have had a tough time of it especially since the banking crisis of 2008. Most of them have their own in-house typesetting service. The typical UK based financial typesetter has many years experience going back to the days of photo-typesetting and have worked on Apple Macs since they were first introduced. I just hope they can continue to put their typesetting skills to good use in the future.