Should Fiduciaries Criticize Wall Street In Their Marketing Brochure?
Friday, July 26, 2013 11:03

Tags: fiduciaries | marketing

Advisors who take their role as fiduciaries seriously are well-positioned to compete against Wall Street. The wirehouses and regional brokerage firms have a terrible reputation for selling instead of advising.It’s pretty easy to use the long history of sales fraud and conflicts of interest to criticize Wall Street. But just how far should advisors go?
My suggestion is that you explain how you are different in your marketing materials but be careful not to go overboard.

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Yesterday, in writing a quarterly performance update for advisors to use with clients and prospects, I referred to “Wall Street’s sales machine.” Economist Fritz Meyer, who is collaborating with me on creating the content suggested I not use that term but just refer to “talking heads on TV.”
Normally, I go with Fritz’s suggestions because he’s brilliant. But in this case I stuck with referring to Wall Street’s sales machine. Why? Because many, if not most, investors don’t know the difference between and independent advisor and a Wall Street broker. They may know you’re different but not really understand exactly why.
RIAs should draw a clear line publicly between how they operate to serve clients versus the sales forces at brokerages. But you don’t want to go too far.
You want to describe the differences between your firm and theirs without attacking Wall Street. You need to be mindful that not all brokers are corrupt and respectful of the relationships that potential clients might have with the advisors at the brokerage firms. You want to state facts about the deficiencies of the Wall Street system but not attack the people who work there.
Don’t say bad things about your competitors. Nobody likes that and it makes you look bad. But do say how you are different and be specific.

SEC's "Seesaw" Explanation Of Interest Rates A Good Device That Advisors Can Use In Client Communication
Monday, July 22, 2013 10:19

Tags: client education | marketing | U.S. economy | US investing

The Securities and Exchange Commission's recent investor alert comparing the inverse relationship between bonds and interest rates to a seesaw is a simple but effective device.

The New York Times used the seesaw analogy this past weekend in its coverage of the interest-rate risk issue and advisors should do the same.

Below is a graphic I cropped from the June SEC alert that RIAs can use to explain the interest rate dilemma to investors.

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If you click on the image below,  a high-resolution version will pop open that can be used in print materials. Just right click on it to save it. Then use this to send a notice to clients about higher intererst rates. You can borrow from the SEC alert for text explaining the way higher rates hurts bond prices.

Using government data is, of course, a great way to create client communications and marketing information about your firm that can be used in newsletters, emails, blog posts and social media. Since we all own the government's data, you can republish it without copyright problems.

This interest rate issue is a huge oine for advisors because interest rate cycles historically are long, drawn out affairs. The U.S. has experienced two secular interest-rate cycles since 1948. From 1948 to 1981, a 31-year period, bond prices dropped lower as interest rates rose. Since 1982, interest rates declined, in a 34 year cycle that benefited bond values. A new secular trend is starting, and advisors need to explain that to clients.   




How To Spot Crappy SEO Pitches And Avoid Content Marketing Consultants Who Really Aren't Experts
Thursday, July 18, 2013 11:53

Tags: advisor websites | content marketing | SEO

Advisors are getting ripped off on digital content marketing. Yesterday I spoke with an advisor who's spending $1200 a month on blog writing and social media posts. He pointed out that he cannot become an expert in this area. But it drives me nuts to see that he doesn't know what's buying or whether it's any good. He does know he's not getting results.

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The only answer is educating yourself. Advisors don't need to become experts in content marketing and search engine optimization, but they need to know the basics. You need to know that if your content marketing consultant is not asking you for your keywords and meta tags, they probably don't know what's they're doing. If they do not focus on your niches and local search terms, they probably don't know what they're doing. Advisors need to know enough to make that determination or else you will get ripped off.


Writing optimized content boosting an RIA's visbility in social media and search engines requires expertise in wealth management, search engnes, and writing. Few professionals possess all three skills. 


Here's a webinar I posted some months back that explains how advisors are getting ripped off and the basics needed to succeed content marketing.


On a related topic, here's a great post from searchengineland about how to keep away from crappy SEO services.

I’m 82, And I Use The Web To Get News, Weather, And Email, And My Wife Banks And Pays Our Bills Online
Saturday, June 15, 2013 13:52

Tags: client communications | retirement | retirement planning


I began my journalism career in 1953 at a morning newspaper in Birmingham, Ala., when I was 21, a senior in college. We worked without benefit of air-conditioning. Large rotary fans were placed around the newsroom to “keep us cool.” Mostly, however, the fans blew paper. We had to spike news copy on weighted spindles to prevent it from blowing across the room. Also, we used upright, manual typewriters to write articles and huge soft-carbon pencils to edit copy. High technology was a manually operated molten-lead typesetting machine that could produce 60 lines of lead type a minute.
Wow! What a strange scene compared to today’s digital newsrooms. Most young journalists today probably never have used a manual typewriter, much less suffered without air-conditioning in the workplace. And I’ll bet they never have seen one of the old soft-lead editing pencils.
Okay. You no doubt have figured out by now that I am an octogenarian. I just turned 82. And you may think that because I am so old that I do not take kindly to today’s high-technology, and figure I have difficulty using computers and the Internet.
Wrong, wet-behind-the-ears kids! I love ‘em, couldn’t do without ‘em, and have absolutely no desire to return to the “good” old days. They weren’t necessarily good, anyhow. I like today’s comforts and technologies.
I am writing this on my laptop computer and sending it through the Internet to Andy Gluck for posting online in A4A’s newsletter.

Oh, yeah. I have a Linksys router and wifi in my home. I love all this “new” stuff.
Research for news articles in the old days consisted of personal and phone interviews, going over public records, reading books in the library, and all sorts of time-consuming activity. Today, you literally can research the world right from your office or home – in minutes. It’s amazing when I compare today to yesterday!

I use my computer to check weather forecasts, read articles in newspapers and magazines, research history, send and receive email, and my wife — she’s a baby, only 68 — uses it to bank and pay bills. We also use it to solve crossword puzzles (that keeps our minds young) and to answer questions that may pop up.

Together, we agree we simply could not live without today’s digital technology. I was one of the first, if not the first, journalist to transmit articles electronically from St. Petersburg, Fla., to publishers in New York City. And my wife and I were at the leading edge of desktop publishing in the Tampa Bay area in the early and mid-1980s. In fact, Andy Gluck installed a modem card in one of our computers during that time. That was a “first” for us. It allowed us to transmit data electronically at a baud rate of 2,600 words a minute. That compared with our old baud rate of 300 a minute. I shuddered when I saw Andy take a screwdriver and “rip” open our computer. I thought computers were hallowed and not to be messed with. I was overjoyed with the result, however.

I used my computer to trade stocks during the dotcom boom of the 1990s. I used Raymond James first, then Quick and Riley. Trading at that time didn’t require any financial understanding or skill. All you had to do was find a startup .com company, buy its stock, and sell it soon. Bang, you made a profit; nothing to it; then, on to the next .com startup.
As we all know, this boom went bust, and trading went back to the old standards of profits and earnings, economic trends, financial savvy, etc.
I turned 70 in 2001 and decided to quit trading equities after the 9/11 tragedy and ensuing stock market crash.
My tolerance for risk also disappeared as I grew older. I had built a nest-egg for retirement, had become debt-free, and didn’t want to assume risk any more.
I strongly urge young people to avoid credit-card debt, to save all that they can, to work as long as they can, and to find a financial advisor to protect and grow their assets. Now!


Bob McGinty is an award-winning newspaper editor. At 82, he came out of retirement to write on A4A about writing, aging, and important life-lessons for advisors. In 1981, he taught Andy Gluck to keep all leads to 12 words or less.


Related story

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12 Tips For Financial Advisors To Help Clients Manage Their Digital Financial Lives
Thursday, June 13, 2013 05:14

Tags: advisor technology | client communications | client education | client portal | privacy; security


You want clients to use the Web to check their accounts and get portfolio reports because it is a better medium for communicating. It’s faster than mailing them this information, less expensive, and easier to organize into a strategic file cabinet for them and their loved ones. Trouble is, many of your clients may not be so great with computers and you are not in the technology business. So here are 10 tips for approaching the issue.

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An Opportunity.
You could just leave clients to fend for themselves and navigate the Internet on their own, but you could also see this situation as an opportunity. The Web understandably can be a scary place for a 70-year old Internet-novice to be looking up her personal financial information. Clients typically don’t have personal technology consultants they can call upon for help with these issues, and the typical IT consultant doesn't have a CFP designation anyway. If you agree that all good business ideas start with helping people, taking on this responsibility will appeal to you. And if you can help older people access their financial information securely and handle their financial digital lives securely, you’re doing good work that’s important and valuable and that no one else is in a better position to do. It's a value-added service and it will bring you closer to clients. This is an opportunity for you to help someone, and as so often happens in volunteer-work, you'll often get more out of it than the person you're helping.
Take It Seriously. Acting as your clients’ digital bodyguard carries responsibility you should not take lightly. Giving clients financial technology support means talking with them about their estate plans and helping them share information about their most personal financial and medical information with the people they trust most in this world. If you want to delegate this task to staff or an outside consultant, realize that you are passing up an opportunity to spend time with a client and teach him to guard his digital financial life.
Know Your Client. According to Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project, 67% of Americans age 65 to 74, and 54% of those 75 and older, use the Internet to get news; 44% of those age 64 to 74, and 30% of those 75 and older, use the Internet to get financial information, Pew data shows. Don’t assume that all over-65 clients or prospects are Internet know-nothings.
Are They Tablet Users? About of fifth of Americans 65 and older own a tablet, according to Pew. Tablets and mobile apps have made financial management online much easier. Mobile and tablet interfaces are stripped down, easy-to-use versions of more complicated software of a bygone era. Helping clients on apps they can access on tablets and smartphones is likely to make digital access to their accounts much easier.
There’s Not An App For Everything. Even if the apps you give clients access are easy to use, underlying issues related to online access of sensitive financial data complicated matters will still need to be addressed. Giving clients even the easiest-to- use apps carries with it a responsibility to teach your clients about essential rules and tools necessary for Internet security.  
Security Essentials. Giving your clients access to their financial accounts may seem as simple as providing them a link from your website, or to a client portal. It’s not. Setting up clients with a password manager for easier, more secure access to their financial apps can help make clients less susceptible to getting hacked. Teaching them about how to create strong passwords, avoid phishing scams, and keeping them shilded from key-logging programs is integral to helping a client manage her digital financial life. As a fiduciary, you should have security policies and procedures in place for all of this, and you personally should already be using a password manager like LastPass or Roboform. You should be using an encrypted wireless Internet connection in your office, and you should be able to share what you know about these essential security issues. Please keep in mind, rarely use "should" in a sentence because I don't much like telling you what to do. But this is important.
Choose Wisely. Before offering all of your clients help with accessing their financial information online, choose a few clients to begin with first. Launch a pilot program for six months or a year before rolling out your digital guardian service to all your clients. No good deed goes unpunished. No matter how good your intentions, some people will find a way to punish you for it. Trust me. So you really need a pilot progrm with a small group of clients to know what you're in for.
Allocate Resources. Decide how you’re going to offer to set up clients. Will you do it? Will you have a staff person do it? How many clients can you set up and teach about safe digital financial access each week?
Level Two. The minute you put your hands on a client’s computers, you take on a responsibility that could backfire on you. If you do something as simple as bookmark a site for a client on his computer and he later cannot connect to his wireless network, you could be blamed. The chances that this will happen are pretty remote, but you never know. Have an expert on-call who can provide “level 2” support when it is needed.
Check It. Once you make a change to a client’s computer, no matter how small, show the person what you did and that they can still get their email and browse the Web. Just to avoid you’re being blamed for anything later.
Outsource It. While you may want to handle the initial set up of your clients’ access to their financial data online, you’ll want to be able to support the ongoing service economically. You or your support staff can log into a client’s computer remotely to fix any problems. Think about whether this is the best set up for you.
Arms Length. One way to help clients with setting up their computers for online access to their financial data is to refer them to a trusted technology consultant that you work with. Perhaps you want to give clients a one-on-one session to help get them set up and teach them security essentials, but then introduce a consultant to follow up with keeping their computers running properly and free from malicious programs. This could actually be a good solution for advisors: You fulfill your obligation to get clients up and running securely and give them a way to pay separately for an ongoing tech service that makes sure their computers stay healthy and that can handle problems that are bound to come up in the future.
These 12 tips are by no means comprehensive, but I'm hoping they help advisors think about ways to approach the issue. Please let me know if you think I'm mamking sense. Tell me what you’re doing to help clients manage their digital financial lives and whether these ideas have been helpful.


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