“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process,
you don’t know what you’re doing”
W. Edwards Deming

Give it away for free

By Andrew Berkley.  Andrew has taken on the role of Financial Modelling Handbook editor from Kenny Whitelaw-Jones.  He will hand on the role to a new editor at the end of 2014.

How many PC users know that you can put spaces in between words in Microsoft Word?

Answer: almost all of them.  And if they don’t, then something might be very wrong.

How many PC users know that you can put spaces in Excel formulae?  Answer: not nearly as many as use spaces in their Word documents.

Once they have the information, people can judge what best to do: is it better to have spaces in Excel formulae – yes or no?  What are the pros?  What are the drawbacks?

People can make these judgments once they have the information.

So when I am asked why the Financial Modelling Handbook is giving away so much for free, the answer I give is that it is good for everyone to have this information.  It might make the world a better place.

When it comes to financial modelling, we should not be trying to claim intellectual property on pure knowledge.  Nor on the evaluation of that knowledge.  Nor – dare I say – should any intellectual property be claimed on Excel coding that uses standard Excel functions and syntax.

As we start to share information freely and without bounds, good things begin to happen.  We have seen this in all the handbook contributions to date (that have been downloaded over 4,000 times) and the discussion that has arisen to date.

Topics of common interest emerge that never might have been identified had someone tried to write this on their own.

Experienced modellers find a way of sharing what they have learned without feeling under threat; less experienced modellers take on skills and knowledge more quickly and effectively.

It could be happening more quickly, of course.  And it is equally important that we get the content as good and clear as we can.  That way, people are more likely to improve upon it.

I would also like to see more material on foreign exchange – it is a huge topic and one that tests to the limit a modeller’s economic and accounting knowledge (not to mention their spreadsheet skills).  I will do my best to make that a priority in the next few months.

And we can take more simple stuff too.  I was chatting to a director of a well known transport business at a school sports day recently and he told me how fluent he was in using the SUM function.  His fingers know exactly where to go on the keyboard: “equals” sign, S, U, M, open brackets…

And I shared with him the little piece of knowledge that if everyone knew might make the world a better place: Alt + equals sign.


  1. Diodemise Moses Abele says:

    I could not Download the handbook. Since I have not read the content, I cannot suggest any improvement now. Please provide the PDF version of the Handbook for easy download. Thank you.

  2. Hi Kim – thanks for kind words. I confess I have not used Alt + Return before since I strive to keep my formulae shorter than my thumb, but I can see its application if you are dealing with unwieldy nested IF statements. I had to expand my formula bar (Ctrl + Shift + U) in order to see the carriage return in action.

    I will consult amongst colleagues as to how in F1F9 we use the Excel space operator…

  3. Kim Irwin says:



    Congratulations on your editorship, the Handbook is a great resource.

    In the spirit of the last paragraph above, did you know there is a space (or intersect) operator in Excel – Google ‘Excel space operator’? Did you also know that Alt Return inserts a carriage return into a formula which is very useful for clarifying nested IF statements?

    Good luck, I look forward to the next addition to the handbook.

    Cheers Kim

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