Content Marketing: The Most Powerful Tool for Financial Agents?

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In today’s day and age, selling financial products and advice is as difficult as ever before. Banks, financial advisors, wealth managers and brokers of financial products face stiff competition, both from traditional competitors and technology-enabled challengers. What is the best Tactic for Financial Agents to separate themselves from the pack?

Why is the competition so stiff in this era of financial services?

A few factors are influencing the increased competition, including automated technology solutions such as robo-advisors and online brokers, as well as increasing global competition, made possible by communicating information through digital channels. These new possibilities may be confusing customers, making it difficult for them to make a decision or even fully understand what options they have.

So, how can financial brands win customers in this environment?

The answer that many financial institutions are turning to, whether they focus on serving businesses or individuals, is content marketing. In a world where 60% of the sales cycle is over before a prospect talks to a salesperson, it’s important for brands to get as much information to their prospective customers as possible. By offering information and provocative insights into potential customer problems and how they can be solved, content marketing can be a major part of a solution selling strategy.

A Powerful Tactic for Financial Agents

60% of Buyer's Cycle

What is “solution selling”?

Solution selling is based on the premise of working with the customer to define their problem. Define their problems based on the symptoms they are experiencing. This is followed up with a solution that helps them solve their problem.

The process involves asking questions about your customer’s needs, problems, and issues and look for the “hook” for your solution. Instead of solely pushing your product, service, or solution, solution selling positions a salesperson to be the ultimate problem solver. Allowing them to earn trust and ultimately putting your business in place to gain a new customer.

This process is how a salesperson can add value on a one-to-one basis through content marketing and solution selling.

Will this strategy actually work for my business?

While there are no guarantees of success through content marketing and solution selling, plenty of brands are adopting these practices and finding great success. 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing, but it is not being used to its full potential. Just 42% of B2B marketers say they use content marketing effectively. Those numbers are even lower in financial services. This can be an opportunity for your brand to jump ahead of your competitors. Take your chance to implement a successful strategy and make your brand more discoverable to your target market.

In fact, content can motivate action, regardless of how ready-to-buy your target customers are. The image below shows what forms of content are effective at nurturing your prospect at every stage of the journey. By providing relevant, useful, original content, your content marketing strategy will nurture customers. When they are ready to contact a salesperson, your brand will be at the top of their mind. Original content should be a cornerstone of your sales and marketing strategy, while fueling your content marketing efforts.

What is the best Tactic for Financial Agents to separate themselves from the pack?

Create Exceptional Cultures Through Education and Awareness

Our Content Marketing Mission is to become the online destination for Advisors looking for useful information, advice, insights, and resources for growing their online presence. If you want to get your content marketing strategy off the ground, or are looking to reinvent how your network of financial agents uses content marketing and solution selling, get in touch with me! We can discuss how your brand can use Digital Agent to maintain a compliant, centrally-controlled content marketing platform for your network of agents.

 

9 Star Wars Quotes That Can Make You A Better Financial Agent

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In 1977, George Lucas released his third film as a director: Star Wars. It was a massive success, leading to five more films before the production company behind the Star Wars franchise (LucasFilm) was sold to Disney. The space epic is centered around a series of intergalactic conflicts, exploring how your destiny is forged by the decisions you make. 

Throughout the course of the series, a variety of characters deliver quotes of great wisdom. The advice and ideas they share in these quotes are not only useful within the context of the films, but teach lessons that can be applied to the financial service industry. The lessons from Star Wars involve: keeping your business secure, having self-confidence, being patient, finding value where it might not be apparent, and making smart decisions.

I’ve compiled 9 of my favourite Star Wars quotes that I believe give insights into how you can become a better financial agent.

1. “You are unwise to lower your defenses.” — Darth Vader, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

This quote by Darth Vader was delivered while dueling his son, Luke Skywalker, on the second Death Star. While you probably won’t need to defend yourself against a lightsaber anytime soon, this quote can still be of consequence. It can apply to a variety of scenarios for financial agents, but it is most fitting when considering digital security.

You would be unwise to lower your defenses, especially those surrounding your company’s data. If you do not ensure that your data is heavily protected, you risk losing confidential information to hackers. In the financial service industry, this means breaking industry regulations and putting sensitive information at risk. Your clients would not appreciate a data breach; an event that would jeopardize your relationships with them.

You should take every possible measure to ensure you protect your data. This means training your employees to spot vulnerabilities and investing in a secure solution to store your data. 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses, and 60% of small businesses go out of business after a cyber attack. Digital security is a big deal, and you need to be constantly vigilant of potential breaches.

After being scolded about lowering his defenses, Luke promptly had his right hand cut off in a duel with his father. You don’t want your business to suffer the same fate.

9 Star Wars Quotes That Can Make You A Better Financial Agent

2.  I find your lack of faith disturbing.” – Darth Vader, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

Our second quote by Darth Vader is another versatile statement that can be applied to a variety of scenarios. In the original movie, this line is delivered right before Darth Vader does something evil. Today, we will frame this quote as positive and make it about believing in yourself.

If you come to a decision, in business or in life, be confident that you made the right choice. You meticulously research and work with your key decision-makers to make the right financial plan for your client. Don’t let doubt creep into your mind and shake your confidence regarding the decision. Unless a strong amount of evidence comes to light that you made an error, stick to your guns. Believe in yourself. You are very capable and have the experience and knowledge to make the right decision.

Darth Vader was a villain, dominating the galaxy with the Emperor. It’s very sad because, in another life, he probably could have written a very successful self-help book.

3. You know better than to trust a strange computer.” — C3PO, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

9 Star Wars Quotes That Can Make You A Better Financial Agent

C3PO, the overly formal protocol droid, has the second lesson about security on this list. After R2D2 commented that the hyperdrive of the Millennial Falcon was broken, C3PO delivered this line. The ship was in the middle of a space battle, and R2D2 was given the information by the enemies computer. While the information R2D2 received was ultimately correct, C3PO raises a good point. You shouldn’t trust strange computers (or systems, or emails, or anything).

If you receive a notification, an email, or another alert about a problem, you should independently investigate that problem. If you don’t have the resources or knowledge to investigate, you should find someone in your organization who does. The most common phishing techniques can be combatted simply by being vigilant and questioning things that don’t seem right.

Also, be aware of strange hardware. USBs and other storage solutions can be used to upload viruses, ransomware, and other malware onto your computer. Do not plug in a USB that you don’t know the origin of. Don’t trust a strange computer and be aware of potential cyber threats.

4. Patience you must have, my young Padawan.” – Yoda, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

This quote was originally delivered by Jedi Master Yoda to the young and inexperienced Luke Skywalker during Luke’s training. Luke was rushing his training so he could go fight his father Darth Vader. Yoda, on the other hand, felt he needed more training. Despite his unconventional way of speaking, Yoda always conveys great wisdom. There are many ways that patience benefits financial agents, but today we will take a look at two in particular.

The first scenario where patience applies in finance is when trading stocks and securities. When you look to make a trade, you must set your rules for entry. At what price point will you make the trade? At what point will you sell what you currently possess? Should you sell after turmoil? These decisions are all very important. Being patient can ensure that you make the right decision at the right time.

The second scenario where patience is a virtue in finance is anytime you help a client with their finances. You are a professional. You have the training and the knowledge to help them make a plan that fits their needs. Be patient, and encourage them to be patient, when investing or saving for the future. It takes time to save for things such as retirement. Be patient. When working with clients, you should be like the Master Yoda of the conversation. Convey your wisdom and speak the truth.

5. Judge me by my size, do you?” – Yoda, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

9 Star Wars Quotes That Can Make You A Better Financial Agent

Yoda is full of grammatically incorrect quotes brimming with wisdom. As he accuses Luke Skywalker of misjudging his power, Yoda asks a question that should be asked more often. You should be very cautious when judging opportunities. Just because a company is small, doesn’t mean it is a bad investment opportunity. That small company could grow to become extremely profitable. Perhaps a great investment opportunity is severely undervalued. When it comes to trading, be careful of judging things by their size.

Just because a client doesn’t have a lot of assets, does not mean that they should be treated as such. There are a number of reasons not to judge somebody by the size of their wallet. That person could win the lottery tomorrow, and be a multi-millionaire. They could inherit a large fortune, or simply work their way up the corporate ladder quickly. All of these scenarios leave that person with more assets than they currently have. If you treat them poorly while managing their wealth (pre-windfall), you risk driving them off when they “make it”. Simply disrespecting clients of lesser means, may hurt your assets under management in the future.

Take millennials as an example. Financial advisors often ignore them because they currently don’t have many assets. In reality, millennials are the future for financial service providers because of their growing spending power. In due time, they will control a significant amount of the world’s wealth. Financial advisors who can draw a millennial client base before the generation fully realizes their wealth will have an advantage over their competition.

6. “You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting.” – Shmi Skywalker, Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (1999)

The mother of Anakin Skywalker (AKA Darth Vader), Shmi Skywalker, was a relatively minor character in the Star Wars franchise. She spoke this line to her young son before he turned to the dark side. The quote applies to finance (and life) in a number of ways.

You cannot do anything to stop change. It is a constant. Governments will put in place regulations that impact the financial services. Businesses will make bad decisions, and things will fail. What makes a good financial agent is your ability to anticipate and react to these change in order to benefit your client base.

Since you cannot stop change, you should embrace it. Stay on top of modern trends. Understand what technologies and strategies are emerging and how you can take advantage of them. Look for opportunities for success within changing situations. Anakin Skywalker did not heed his mother’s advice. Anakin tried to stop change and in doing so he lost everyone he loved and became Darth Vader. Do not make the same mistake.

7. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Yet another quote delivered by Yoda to Luke Skywalker during his training. This quote is about determination. Your actions have real effects, and you should have the patience, knowledge, and confidence to follow through with your plans. If you say you are going to “try”, you are subconsciously admitting that your plans might fail.

When you go to the store to get milk, do you say “I’m going to try to get milk”? No, you don’t. You say “I’m going to get milk” with the confidence that you will be able to get the milk. You should have confidence in your plans. Believe your plan can be accomplished. Do not try. Just do it.

If you cannot ensure that you can make a plan and 100% follow through, then you may need to re-evaluate. Break down what you need to accomplish into manageable pieces, and make a plan for each of those segments. To gain trust from your customers, you need to be able to communicate exactly what you can do for them. If you can highlight what you can 100% achieve for your client, you will better be able to provide tangible value.

You need to constantly be communicating your value, highlighting what you do for your clients. Service providers face a challenge that is not faced by distributors of goods. The physical existence of goods serves as a reminder of their value. When people see their car, they are reminded of the value it provides. Services do not have that reminder, so service providers need to constantly remind their clients of the value they provide.

8. Who’s the more foolish, the fool? Or the fool who follows him?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

Old Obi-Wan Kenobi spoke this line to Han Solo while aboard the Millennial Falcon. Han was calling him “an old fool”, and Obi-Wan returned with this biting comeback. Obi-Wan has a serious point here. If you know better, why would you follow bad advice? For financial agents, this goes two ways.

You should resist the pressure to sell financial products you don’t believe in. Major financial institutions often push their agents to promote particular products. If you don’t believe in a product, why would your client be interested in it? You are an expert. Every product or service you recommend to a client should be tailored to their unique needs. Don’t be unwise when recommending action. It is your responsibility to make the most logical, well-intended decisions, regardless of what expectations are held by leadership.

The other side of the equation for financial agents comes when they are the ones providing guidance or advice. Your clients will not be happy if they believe you have made “foolish” decisions. They lose faith in your ability to manage their finances. Bad decisions and mismanagement will result in clients using trust in you, damaging your reputation. Ensure that your decision-making process is justified and easily explainable. People understand why taking risks is important, however, they will not be understanding of foolish mistakes.

Be mindful of every decision you make; as even if made in good faith, decisions can easily result in negative results. You do not want to be seen as a fool (because you aren’t one). Ensure you advocate for the right decisions are made… even if they are out of your control.

9. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” – Multiple characters, Star Wars: Multiple times (1977-2016)

9 Star Wars Quotes That Can Make You A Better Financial Agent

Arguably the second most iconic line of the series (behind “May the Force be with you”), this quote speaks volumes. Every time a character proclaims: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”, something bad happens almost immediately.

The lesson you can take from this quote is that you should trust your “gut”. Financial markets can rapidly change, with government actions or small changes in an industry having a widespread effect almost immediately. If data isn’t available to accurately forecast the expected results you should trust your intuition. Mistakes and missteps are bound to happen. You can justify your actions in those moments if you know that you stuck to your convictions and trusted your instincts.

If you have a bad feeling about something, as Luke Skywalker did right before he saw the original Death Star for the first time, you should trust that feeling. You have training and experience. Rely on that to make the correct decision.

As you can see, you can learn a lot of lessons from the Star Wars saga. Through the many adventures the heroes faced, we learned lessons to apply to finance (and business in general). What other Star Wars quotes relate to the financial service industry? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ! Have an excellent day and may the Force be with you!

Generation Z: The Next Frontier for Financial Marketing

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There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about millennials. They are seen as a group that is quite different from previous generations in many ways. The differences come in how they consume media, how they shop, and how they make decisions. Many financial service providers have changed the way they operate in an attempt to cater to this particular demographic.

Financial agents have joined social media in order to have their voices heard by millennials. Robo-advisors have been developed to meet the instant service expectations of millennials. Mobile apps and websites have been developed, in all industries, to meet the needs of millennials. Millennials want to be able to do their business digitally.

The financial service industry has been altered greatly to meet the demand for a seamless experience, instant service, and unlimited control. It will have to shift again to live up to the expectations of the next big demographic: Generation Z.

Financial service providers have already begun shifting their strategy, modernizing operations to meet the needs of millennials. Those efforts will prove beneficial because Gen Z expects the technology solutions that millennials enjoy. Even though some solutions have already been put in place, financial service providers will have to move towards providing a true omnichannel experience to capture the next generation of consumers.

Characteristics of Gen Z

Gen Z consists of individuals born in the mid-1990s and beyond. Eventually, when this generation ages, a line will be drawn (between Gen Z and the next generational cohort), but today Gen Z consists of consumers who are aged 23 and under. This means that while older members of Gen Z are just finishing college, the youngest may still be in diapers. It is very hard (and quite unethical) to market your financial services to literal infants. So, we will focus on the consumer habits of the older members of this group, the members who have already developed some sense of self.

Gen Z is projected to be 2.5 billion people strong, and are already spending around $200 Billion annually, including their influence on household spending. That number will only grow as they enter the workforce, inherit wealth, and begin to invest their own assets.

Members of Gen Z are considered “digital natives”. Having grown up with technology, they feel very comfortable making purchases online and through mobile apps. Growing up with these technologies, they also have very high expectations of them. 60% of Gen Z will refuse to use an app or website that does not load fast enough.

This generation is constantly connected, they expect a seamless, truly omnichannel experience. They expect everything to be available, through any channel, whenever they want it.

Generation Z grew up with any answers they needed right at their fingertips. The availability of the internet has made them self-reliant. This self-reliance has enabled them to be smarter shoppers, comparing prices, rates and the overall offers with those of your competition.

You might be thinking: “wait, you just described millennials.” I know it seems that way, but despite their similarities, the two groups are fundamentally different in many ways.

Technology: Mobile-first

For one, generation Z are more mobile-centric than any previous generation. According to Vision Critical, Gen Z uses their smartphones 15.2 hours per week, more than any other device. This is more than the 14.8 hours millennials use their smartphones. Generation Z also watches less TV than any previous generation, consuming around 13 hours per week. The youngest generation is also desktop averse, using a laptop more frequently than desktops. 74% of generation Z spends their free time online, 73% of them use mobile devices to text and chat socially with family and friends.

An example of how much they enjoy using mobile devices, 39% of Gen Z respondents ranked mobile banking as a top day-to-day banking service or feature, compared to only 17% of overall Americans and 32% of Millennials.

In order to get your messaging to Gen Z, you should focus your digital efforts on creating ads and content that looks good on mobile devices. Invest in responsive design and ensure the website is quick to load. 

More In-Person Interactions

Believe it or not, Gen Z appears to be less interested in entirely digital experiences, preferring an omnichannel experience. Only 25% of Gen Z do more than half of their banking online or through a mobile app.

53% of Gen Z prefer in-person interactions over instant messaging or email. These preferences may have been developed after hearing about millennials struggling with in-person communications in professional situations. While they enjoy face-to-face interactions, technology solutions such as Skype, Hangouts, Facetime and Snapchat are still used to communicate digitally. These solutions allow them to utilize full sight, sound, and movement. They grew up with these solutions, which might be a reason they are more comfortable with in-person communications than millennials, who grew up with email and instant messaging (text-only mediums).

In order to attract generation Z to your practice, you will need to maintain a strong brick-and-mortar presence. Chatbots and other instant-messaging solutions will not be as appealing to generation Z as they are to millennials. However, solutions that allow for communication using sight and sound will be used and appreciated.

Social Responsibility

Much like their millennial counterparts, Gen Z has an interest in social and environmental responsibility. 76% of the generational cohort is concerned about humans impact on the environment, with 60% wanting to have an impact on the world (20% more than millennials). As a financial service provider, you will need to offer a variety of socially or environmentally responsible products and services for generation Z investors.

The social and environmental responsibility should not end there. Your business should have a cause that matters to you, something that you want to change. Make it a priority, giving employees time off to volunteer and partner with charities or causes. Do something to make the world a better place. Gen Z will notice and remember when it’s time to make their purchase decision. This generation may even be willing to give up a little bit of money to invest in social responsibility. 55% of online consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.

Financial Concerns

Generation Z grew up in a very different financial environment than millennials. They have grown up seeing social security funds depleting, individuals crushed by student debt, and the 2008 recession greatly diminishing the economy. These experiences have left them with a different mindset about finances than the last few generations.

Seeing the banking system collapse the way it did, requiring a bailout, generation Z is skeptical of financial service providers in general. This skepticism will lead to the generational cohort diversifying their assets more than previous generations, using multiple financial advisors, banks, and insurers.

Gen Z has many other concerns about the economy that will factor into their financial decisions. A major concern is that the (still very) young generation will not be able to afford to get a higher education, or that if they do, they will be buried in student debt. This concern may lead to fewer post-secondary students in the generation, which could affect their future earnings. This concern about education may lead to them starting RESPs or otherwise saving for their own children’s education sooner than ever before.

The generational cohort is also concerned about having to support their parents or guardians in old age, which again may make them more risk averse. Having grown up in turbulent times, Gen Z will be wary of financial service providers. They were still young and impressionable in the post-2008 recession. Sentiments expressed by the media during that time may cause them to never trust anyone in the financial service industry too much. This makes it all that much more important to draw this generation towards your business.

Takeaways About Generation Z

So now you know a little bit about generation Z. They are digital natives, expecting the best experience, regardless of the device they are using. They care about the environment, about social responsibility. The generation is less trusting of traditional banking systems, based on their experiences growing up.

Many members of Gen Z saw the struggles of family members during the great recession. Many have older siblings who still live at home, parents, and relatives who were laid off or fired, cousins and friends who couldn’t find a job. This experience is still fresh in their minds and is a motivation to look for financial security. Because of their young age, we do not have a detailed profile of how this generation invests. However, due to the world’s financial situation during their youth, it is likely that they will be risk-averse investors.

To sum it up, generation Z is complex. Gen Z has a familiarity with technology that has never been seen before. They want instant, omnichannel experiences, regardless of what they are doing. You still have plenty of time to prepare for capturing this demographic. However, it will be a challenge unlike any you have experienced before. The benefits of capturing this demographic, while small today, will be huge tomorrow.

Are you ready to the next generational cohort? Do you think Gen Z are just millennials “on steroids”? Even though they are still young, their market will be huge. Tonka trucks and algebra classes today will be F-150’s and engineering jobs tomorrow. Are you going to prepare for Gen Z? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ, we want to hear your opinions on this next generation.

The Importance of Digital Marketing In Financial Services

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Fundamentals are important in anything you do. As Jim Rohn, author, motivational speaker and mentor to Tony Robbins, once said:

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.”

Having great fundamentals are as important in digital marketing as they are in anything. The profession is constantly shifting to new places and adopting new technologies. Every now and then, it pays for marketers to reexamine their fundamentals.

The financial marketing landscape is quickly shifting to new, unforeseen territories. Some firms are implementing chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI) and other cutting-edge technology solutions. Others are still playing catch-up; designing websites, getting on social media and finally beginning to create digital content. The digital world is extremely competitive and you need to be prepared for it.

This article will discuss a few reasons why you need to get serious about the fundamentals of digital marketing.

1. The Great Wealth Transfer

Younger generations will be inheriting $30 Trillion from baby boomers over the next 30-40 years. Financial service firms, including advisors, brokers and banks, need to prepare to court these digital natives if they wish to continue managing the wealth currently held by baby boomers. This shift of wealth can be a never-before-seen opportunity for FinServ providers, or it can be the event that leads to the extinction of many members of the FinServ community. Advisors, brokers and other FinServ firms, who do not get on the digital bandwagon will lose their client base. They will be unable to attract younger clients, and as baby boomers begin to transfer their wealth, outdated FinServ providers will quickly become irrelevant.

If you cannot communicate in a way that speaks to younger audiences, you will be one of the FinServ providers who loses clients and capital quickly. The younger generations expect social interaction and digital communication, even with their FinServ providers. To gain the trust of generation X, Y and Z, you will need to be present digitally. Check out this article to learn more about marketing to millennials. 

Communicating in ways and places that speak to your audience is a key fundamental to digital marketing. Consider what your messaging is, and how it speaks to your target audience. Can you easily be reached online? Is your website engaging and able to draw people in? These are key factors to consider when rexamining your digital marketing fundamentals.

2. Young Adults Using Social Media

FinServ providers aren’t going to have to wait very long to feel the younger generation’s impact on their business. Do you actively target millennials? They are far more likely than their parents to pick their FinServ provider through internet research and social media. Research by McKinsey showed that two thirds of the buyer’s journey touch points in finance are consumer-driven. The consumer-driven touch points include word-of-mouth (sometimes taking place on social media), online research (using a search engine to find information) and customer reviews (both offline and on websites such as Yelp).

These younger generations, such as millennials, basically require you to have a high-quality website in order to gain their trust. If FinServ providers don’t have a strong digital marketing presence, they risk becoming irrelevant. Digital marketing includes being present (and active) on social media, having a quality website and communicating with prospects via the channel(s) of their choice.

Remember, there are 2.3 billion people using social media, you should be one of them. Engaging and sharing quality content on social media is an excellent way to attract clients. Social media use has become a fundamental piece of the digital marketing equation. Information gets spread online through social media. Every generation uses at least one social network en masse. Not having a strong social media presence to share and spread content, news and as a touch point for communication is a huge mistake in digital marketing. Strong use of social media is a fundamental of digital marketing.

3. Baby-Boomers Love Social Media Too

Baby Boomers love Facebook. They represent about half of Facebook’s user base, and more than half of adults over 50 use some form of social media. You might not be aware of that fact, but the last decade has seen a major digital transformation. Everybody, from the youngest consumers, to the oldest grandparents are now active on social media and regularly use the internet.

The gap between the average person’s expectations for technology options, and what technology options FinServ firms provide is very, very wide. This gap has always existed. Financial service providers are slow to react to new technology. Compared with other industries, technology leaders in FinServ are behind the 8-ball. Just over two thirds of CEO’s in the financial sector are worried that they are too slow adopting technology.

If you want to grow your client base using digital marketing, social media is a fundamental aspect. Everybody uses it, and it has become a primary source of information for a large number of consumers. There are some aspects of the digital transformation that are often poorly implemented due to poor fundamentals.

So, what are some of the reasons financial service providers are so slow reacting to the digital transformation?

Compliance

The main reason financial service firms are so slow on the adoption of digital marketing is compliance issues. FINRA has guidelines for oversight of content, but many leaders are worried about compliance issues involved with the adoption of new technology. They are worried that confidential information can be stolen, and that the new technology will not aid in oversight. Another worry is that the solution won’t make a meaningful impact on compliance timelines. Compliance is a very big deal in FinServ. However, that does not mean you should be gun-shy about adopting digital marketing tools and tactics, especially when there are marketing and compliance solutions built especially for financial institutions.

Digital marketing is essentially a requirement for growing any business these days, therefore you need to have your compliance requirements sorted out before beginning. There are many solutions to help with this process (such as Digital Agent). Compliance is such an essential, fundamental aspect of digital marketing that it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Once you have a compliance system in place, you can begin content marketing, using social media, and engaging with customers online, without fear of breaking an industry regulation.

Leadership Disconnect

Another reason why FinServ firms might not adopt digital marketing practices or invest in technologies, is because their leaders do not know of their existence. Older people might not realize that there are many, many demographics who spend a large amount of time on social media platforms, simply because they don’t use them. They justify this anti-technology rhetoric by saying all of their clients are the same age as they are, that everyone is like them. This allows them to (wrongly) sit in their own bubble and not have to face change.

These leaders don’t realize that every generation is on social media, every generation searches for business online. They will severely slow down efforts to modernize, losing clients in the process because the leader doesn’t cater to them. To summarize, leaders who (for whatever reason), may not understand the ubiquity of technology across all industries. As a marketer, you might need to advocate for the adoption of even the most widespread technologies.

To be successful at digital marketing, your business must have full buy-in from leadeship. It is a digital marketing fundamental and without it, your efforts will fail. Digital marketing takes a unified, agile approach to be successful, something that cannot happen without a connected leadership team, working hard to make things work.

Legacy Systems

One reason that FinServ is behind on adopting digital marketing technologies is that very few of the leaders realize the pressing need to change. Very few (if any) leaders in FinServ rise out of the marketing department. Most leaders do not realize the extent to which their business is falling behind on technology adoption in the marketing department. The average leader in financial services simply struggles to see the value in adopting new technologies that may speed up certain processes.

It’s not that leaders do not wish to stay up-to-date with marketing technologies, but due to expensive legacy systems and ingrained processes, they simply can’t. There are simply too many obstacles blocking the path to change. These obstacles, along with leadership who are somewhat disconnected with the reality of the situation, are the reasons that FinServ providers are falling behind on technology adoption.

Having legacy systems slow you down can be annoying, it can even be quite harmful to your business. It is not breaking any fundamental principles of digital marketing, but can be a symptom of having disconnected leadership. To be successful at digital marketing, you will need to be flexible, you will need to be able to adopt new practices and technologies as they gain popularity. A fundamental aspect of digital marketing is staying on top of current trends. If legacy systems are preventing you from doing that, something must change.

Inadequate Flexibility

Smaller, or independent firms often have a much easier time reacting to technology trends. Their flexibility allows them to control compliance issues in-house, not having to communicate with another department or location. They can motivate change internally. The fact that these firms are less reliant on legacy systems and procedures make them less resistant to change.

Many digital marketing technology solutions do not carry with them a significant up-front cost, especially compared to a decade ago. For this reason, smaller firms are at no disadvantage compared to giant institutions with legacy systems. The larger your organization is, the slower the compliance process can be. There is more material flowing through the compliance department, slowing everything down. The more reliant on legacy systems an organization is, the slower the organization will be to adopt in new technologies. If you cannot stay up to date on the adoption of technologies, it will be very difficult to succeed in digital marketing.

If you have those legacy systems or procedures, don’t worry too much. With proper leadership, willingness to change, and an investment in technology, you can easily become a leader in digital transformation in the FinServ industry. 

Think back to your marketing fundamentals. Communication is a key component, another is delivery of your message where it will be received by the intended audience. Ensure that you are constantly working on getting the basics right, or else, as the digital age progresses, you will lose clients and your practice may dry up. It is important to stay modern, ensure your digital marketing efforts have a basis in strong fundamentals.

How are you preparing for the great transfer of wealth to millennials? Is anything holding you back from adopting technology? What do you think the major reason that FinServ hasn’t adopted these technologies sooner? 

How Technology Can Help the Customer Journey for High Net Worth Individuals

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The customer journey, like much of the 21st century, has changed to include more technological aspects. Digital advertising and “Googling” are a couple examples of technology that have changed the customer journey for the masses.  They have made it easier to entice a potential customer to you through the awareness and decision phase through advertising and easily accessible information. Narrowing the customer journey down to High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI), you start to get a sense of how technology has impacted their consumer journey – which may or may not differ from the mass consumer market.

In a recent study conducted by LinkedIn and Greenwich Associates, it broke down the customer journey into 5 phases: awareness, consideration and selection, onboarding and action planning, network development, and keeping the relationship alive. In this article, we’ll take a look at technology’s impact on each step and interpret the data.

AWARENESS

In this phase, the client has to be aware of the wealth manager. Even though technology has added many different channels where you can reach out to potential clients, recommendations from family or friends remains one of the top ways that a HNWI would choose an advisor.

Once HNW clients are made aware, it can be difficult to acquire them since nearly 2/3 have had their wealth manager for over 5 years and have built up trust with them. Although, 2 out of 5 Millennials and over ¼ of Generation X plan to switch their wealth manager in the next 12 months. The change in wealth manager may not necessarily be because of higher returns, but could be due to service, engagement, and readiness to try something new. A chart with the exact percentages of whether or not each demographic plans to change their wealth manager is given below.

 

plantochangewealthmanagers

The awareness phase is still fairly traditional since technology has not beaten word of mouth recommendations from trusted individuals. It has, however, opened up the opportunity to acquire clients that were not fully satisfied with their past manager – mainly within the millennial demographic.

 

CONSIDERATION & SELECTION

The consideration and selection is the phase where the client would engage in research to determine which investor best suits them. A personal touch (mainly word-of-mouth) still exists in this phase as 1/2 of HNWIs look to family and friends for evaluations, and over 2/3 base their evaluations on face-to-face interactions.

Even though personal metrics, such as a face-to-face meetings or recommendations, play a part, the manager has to use all the tools available to stand out in this market. This includes developing their digital presence. This is because 1/3 of HNW Millennials use social media profiles of potential wealth advisors as their evaluation process. Half of HNW Millennials look at an advisor’s posts on social media. The need for social media drops significantly with older generations, but it is offset since clients with a net worth of over $10 million determine it as being important.

importance_useofsocialmedia

 

In terms of robo-investing, only 3% of HNWIs interviewed say robo-investing factor into their decision. The use of robo-investors has been limited to more routine, typical strategies while wealth managers are used for more unique and complex strategies.

In the consideration phase, HNWI’s preference for technology increased slightly. This is mainly to assist the individuals that want to research on their own. Although, the importance of a social media presence increases with the younger generation and with individuals with more investable assets. This importance, with the younger generation, is most likely due to their familiarity and the importance they place on social media in their personal lives. For the individuals with the highest investable assets, it is most likely due to their due diligence as they have much more on the line.

 

ONBOARDING AND ACTION PLANNING

Once a wealth manager is selected, the path and action plan moving forward has to be decided. To determine this action plan, an in-person meeting is still the preference for most demographics. However, a shift occurred in the Millennial demographic as only 40% met with their advisor in person to make an investment plan. One-third took a self-directed approach by using their manager’s website to research options. This change suggests that Millennials are more open to engaging differently or are more prone to use self-service options.

Another part of this phase is the transaction. Based on the respondents, 85% of HNWI believe that wealth managers should use technology. This would mean anything from making the transaction online or easier due to technology.

A key trend we can see, as we move along the phases, is that the importance of technology grows as the journey progresses. There’s a noticeable increase in the want for technology in the onboarding and action-planning phase. More specifically, technologies that make researching, communicating, and the transaction simpler and more convenient were more preferred in this stage. Unsurprisingly, Millennials see technology as an important part of the later parts of the journey.

 

NETWORK DEVELOPMENT

Millennials, Generation X, and individuals with the highest amount of assets find it really important to compare investment strategies with like-minded peers – as seen in the figure below. These conversations are extending to online platforms, such as social media. These are less of a threat and more of a community-fostering tool. This allows a community to come together and offer advice and foster goodwill for the advisor as well. Since personal recommendations are still very important in the beginning of the customer journey, this type of goodwill is very important.

importance_comparing_investments

 

For the network development phase, building a social presence, or an online community, is one of the key creators of goodwill to assist the wealth manager in acquiring more HNWIs. In this phase, technology becomes quite important to promote a conversation that will extend past physical meetings.

 

KEEPING THE RELATIONSHIP ALIVE

6% of all HNWIs expressed the desire for daily contact, while 60% wanted contact on monthly basis, at most. Although, 15% of Millennials want daily contact with their advisor when the markets get rocky. This could be a result of the vast amount of information that Millennials are exposed to leading to them wanting more filtered information from the advisor. Email remains the preferred method of contact; but Millennials showed their interest for different communication methods, such as apps. In terms of social media, LinkedIn and Facebook were the most used platform for financial planning.

Looking broadly, most HNWI prefer periodic contact through technology. It is best to group different demographics into their contact preferences and send market updates accordingly. In general, the younger demographic prefer more updates (through email or social media) in down times, but few updates otherwise. The older demographic of HNWI, however, is content with few updates through any market condition.

 


 

Overall, the customer journey for HNWI hasn’t changed much in the beginning phases. Word of mouth recommendations and evaluations trump many other aspects in the awareness and selection phase. However, the prevalence and importance of technology is growing in the later stages. Most notably, technology is used in parts of the journey to make things more convenient; such as, improving the transaction portion of the action plan phase, networking, and offering a more convenient platform to communicate periodically.

The best possible way to adjust to this shift in preferences is to deploy a high tech and high touch strategy. This means a blend of personal human interaction and technology to cover the different wants and needs of each demographic. A good base strategy includes offering real time communications during volatile times and limiting contact other times, creating groups or an online community, and using your client’s social media, by seeding content, to gain valuable referrals.

Read how Brandon Silbermann, from Don Stockman Financial Services Ltd., used Digital Agent by Veriday to create a digital branding platform for his company.

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Reprinted with permission from Investment Executive.  

Brandon Silbermann’s digital branding initiative was powered by Digital Agent by Veriday.

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If the new way of doing business for financial advisors is at the intersection of the latest digital marketing technology and good, old-fashioned client service, Brandon Silbermann might just be the advisor of the future.

A typical day for Silbermann might include updating his practice’s website, checking his LinkedIn account and driving to a client’s farm to discuss his or her financial plan.

Silbermann, 25, is an advisor with Don Stockman Financial Services Ltd. in Waterloo, Ont., which is affiliated with Oakville, Ont.-based Manulife Securities Investment Services Inc. He officially joined the investment industry full-time in 2013 after graduating from the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, from which he obtained an honours bachelor of commerce degree in finance.

But back in 2013, Silbermann already was familiar with financial advisory work, having been involved in his school’s co-operative education program, through which he was mentored by Don Stockman, advisor and founder of Stockman Financial.

Silbermann now is an advisor with that practice with his own book of business, consisting of $22 million in assets under management. He is licensed to sell mutual funds, which are offered through Manulife Securities, and insurance products, through Kitchener, Ont.-based Financial Horizons Inc.

Silbermann has learned many lessons from Stockman, who has been an advisor for more than 30 years in the Waterloo region. These lessons include key steps in maintaining strong relationships with clients. “Don always told me to do the right thing,” Silbermann says. “Take good care of the client. Make sure you see them face to face.”

Silbermann brought to the established practice some special knowledge that is characteristic of his age group. He took on the large task of creating an online brand for the practice, which did not have a website prior to Silbermann joining the firm.

This digital branding initiative included creating a website with the help of a third-party digital-marketing company that works with Manulife. The Stockman Financial website would allow Stockman and Silbermann to communicate their skills and experience to families and small-business owners, such as farmers and skilled tradespeople in the construction industry, who are an important part of Stockman Financial’s niche.

“We have three or four generations of some [client] families,” Silbermann says. But the firm needed a way to communicate its expertise to other clients and prospects: not only an online presence, but one that stays up to date.

Silbermann ensures that the website’s functionality fits the ways in which people use technology. “The majority of web searches are done through smartphones,” he says, his empty hands gesturing as if scrolling through a smartphone screen. “So, it was critical for us to have something that is mobile-compatible so that people could see it – so it looked nice on their phones and was easily searchable.”

Silbermann is active on LinkedIn, connecting with other professionals on that social media network. He does not network through Facebook or Twitter, but he is planning to join Manulife’s social media program for advisors, which will guide Silbermann in using Twitter in a compliant manner.

Silbermann’s digital strategy seems to be working just fine. He added three new clients through his use of LinkedIn in 2015.

Silbermann does not spend much time pursuing prospects online, aside from sending out LinkedIn invitations to connect with other professionals. He finds that fellow LinkedIn users will check out his profile, then ask him questions through that social-media network. But those conversations do not remain online for long, as Silbermann’s strategy is to meet prospects in person as soon as possible.

“As much as the world is digital,” Silbermann says, “you need to put a face to a name, especially in a business that is as private and important as money.”

That principle has Silbermann convinced that robo-advisory services, which are becoming increasingly well known, are not a serious competitor. These online services cannot provide that human connection that is important to both Silbermann and Stockman, the latter of whom always emphasizes the importance of seeing clients in person, even if that means driving to the farmhouse of a client who lives outside of the immediate Waterloo area.

“Being able to be there with these people, their farming families and companies, generates a whole other level of trust, integrity and rapport,” Silbermann says. “It does not concern me how the industry is changing.”

Silbermann also is confident that his age is not an obstacle in attracting new clients. The keys, he says, are to associate yourself with a successful brand, then develop a positive relationship with individuals who can speak on your behalf. The affiliation with Manulife, which has a visible presence in the Waterloo region, and to Stockman work to Silbermann’s benefit. Once he builds trust with young clients, he can appeal to their parents.

Silbermann’s office acts as a showcase for his clients’ skills. The flooring, which looks like reclaimed barnwood and is symbolic of Waterloo’s farming tradition, was installed by a client. A painting of bright yellow construction machinery set against a skyline of tall buildings, created by a client’s son, was commissioned by Silbermann; the painting represents the type of hard-working individuals who make up an important part of Silbermann’s client base.

Silbermann also speaks to university students about entrepreneurship on his own time. One of his goals is to help his alma mater grow its investment club. He is an avid reader of books on business, technology and foreign policy. He also is working toward a certified financial planner designation.

BUILD TRUST WITH YOUR CLIENTS

Millennial-generation financial advisors should consider both traditional and digital methods to establish a strong rapport with clients and prospects, according to Brandon Silbermann, an advisor with Don Stockman Financial Services Ltd. in Waterloo, Ont. Silbermann offers the following tips to help young advisors get off to a good start:

1. Develop a mobile-friendly website

A strong online brand can help you connect with prospects and show what they can expect regarding your skills and the services you would provide as their advisor. Because a growing proportion of online searches are conducted on mobile devices, your content must be easily viewed on smartphones and tablets.

2. Be honest

Taking a direct approach with clients about fees, products and other issues will help young advisors build trust with clients of all ages, Silbermann says.

3. Connect with established brands

Joining a large firm with a positive reputation or the practice of an experienced and trusted senior advisor can help you build trust.

Working with a known entity also provides instant credibility, says Silbermann: “It helps you get over the initial hurdles of being a younger person in the industry and managing money professionally.”

4. Build a network of mentors

Consider the type of business you want to run in the future and look for professionals in various industries who fit your vision. Silbermann has four mentors, each works in heavy construction, group benefits or portfolio management. And don’t be nervous about approaching established professionals. “If you have a good connection with them, they will share a lot about how they got to where they are.”

© 2016 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.

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This post was authored by Tessie Sanci and originally appeared here on Investment Executive

Financial Services Trends to Watch in 2016: #FinTech & Robo-Advisor Disruption

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It is safe to say that the FinTech revolution is happening.

FinTech, put simply, is financial technology. It refers to the technology that is becoming increasingly important in the world of financial services, and is beginning to disrupt the way businesses operate. FinTech can include everything from mobile banking to modern compliance to digital investment advisory.

According to Accenture, global investment in financial services technology ventures has more than tripled during the last five years – from under $930 million in 2008 to more than 2.97 billion in 2013. The number of investments in FinTech is increasing year-over-year at an unbelievable rate. The growth of investment in FinTech signifies how technology and the Internet are changing the nature of financial services. From the ways that people pay their bills, to the way they use the Internet to invest their money.

So, what are some of the things that FinTech can accomplish for the general public?

  • Educate consumers to make smarter financial decisions
  • Digital investment advisory
  • Mobile payment
  • Provide compliance assistance
  • Enhance online shopping experience
  • Offer new avenues for loans
  • Speed payments
  • Investment management
  • Bank Technology
  • Protect assets from fraud
  • Crowd funding
  • Trading

In this article, we will focus on digital investment advisory, and what this means for traditional financial service institutions and advisory firms.

What does the #FinTech disruption mean for Financial Advisors?

The rise of FinTech is particularly significant for traditional financial services brands. We are seeing a rise of new companies offering technology-based programs that provide a complete suite of financial services and investment advice – also known as robo-advisors. This has lead to many questioning, why pay to see a Financial Advisor when you can get financial advice online for a fraction of the price?  And, why not question it? These platforms offer many sophisticated tools at a third or less of the price of a Financial Advisor.

Financial Institutions and Advisors need to ask themselves, what is in it for the client? Where can a Financial Advisor make the customer experience and human touch worth going with a traditional Advisor over a robo-advisor? With the #FinTech disruption in full swing, the online presence of Financial Enterprises and their Advisors has never been so important.

One of the best ways for traditional financial service companies to beat the robo-advisors is through developing an effective online presence and client experience.

The Future Investors

Almost 80 million Millennials will stand to inherit $30 trillion in personal wealth and grow their earnings in the coming years. Financial institutions and Advisors who have embraced the digital revolution will be the ones to thrive, and this is evident in research conducted by Fidelity. Fidelity’s research confirms that emerging affluent investors are nearly twice as likely as millionaires to find a new Financial Advisor through Internet research and more likely than millionaires to find a new Advisor through social media.

Fidelity’s research also finds that 58 percent of emerging affluent investors have a significantly more positive impression of Financial Advisors who have a good website (key word here is good.  There are many Advisor websites out there that are as non engaging as a business card). Thirty-eight percent of those investors follow their Advisor on social media sites and 30 percent say they are more likely to relate to a Financial Advisor who has a social media presence.

If the Financial Enterprise does not enable the Advisory firms to have an online presence in order to communicate with clients and prospects, the financial institution risks making their Advisors irrelevant because they are not connecting with the next generation of investors. An active and compliant online presence for Advisors is the human and real life touch that sets them apart from the robo-advisors: the ability to educate, interact and engage with prospects and clients.

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Financial service institutions have traditionally been slow to embrace digital marketing trends. In a regulated industry, it is important to make compliance and legal a part of your digital and social media teams so you have approval from the beginning of campaigns. But, the time has come for Financial Institutions to stop using compliance and regulations as an excuse to grow their brand and Advisors’ businesses.