It’s no secret that our industry is heavily regulated and people are fearful of putting stuff out there that may come back to bite them in the butt. Companies that we work with tend to be extremely conservative regarding marketing material that is seen by the general public and when it is released, it’s filled with a slew of disclosures that puts the advisor on an island when they say we are “not affiliated” with them. Moreover, whenever we go to them with a new idea they haven’t heard before, for the most part, not all, simply shut the idea down. They would rather say no and move on than take the time to understand, evaluate and assist in the matter.
Now let me help define the title of this article. It states “Financial Advisors vs. Compliance — Why Can’t We All Just Be Friends?” I don’t necessarily mean the ladies and gentlemen in your office because they are simply following the rules. They are implementing the rules based on the corporation that governs them and the regulatory agencies that oversee them. There’s only so much they can do to help us advisors out.
Here are a few of the problems:
1. Canned Content
We all are aware of the canned content that our companies put out for us to use. You know, the articles that no one reads (including ourselves) and every advisor from that company posts on the same day, allowing our companies to be in control of our personal brand. Think about it…if a consumer is connected to more than one advisor from a particular company, which is very likely, and on the same day, they see a handful of people post the same article with the same caption and the same picture, it SCREAMS advertisement all over it. Whether it actually is an ad or a piece of valuable content, perception is reality and if it is perceived as an ad, they gloss by it and it never gets consumed.
Same goes with your friends, family and extended network. They know when you post something in your own voice or when you post it in your company’s voice. When they notice it isn’t you, they know it’s disingenuous and continue scrolling by without even consuming it. When the consumer no longer consumes what you’re putting out, there’s an issue.
I’ve learned and now believe that the value is in the inefficiencies and the consumer notices and appreciates when someone does something for them that had required a little extra time and energy. They appreciate hearing your voice either through your writing or your voice. They enjoy seeing your face and learning your mannerisms. Throughout this process of consuming content created directly by you, they build trust with you and over time are attracted to doing business with you. People do business with people, not companies, not logos and by not allowing us to truly focus on building our personal brand, these companies are setting us all up for failure, long term. Sure we can achieve certain levels of success but with all the information available to the consumer regarding financial planning, what separates one person from the next? Fees? Location? Logos? Fancy software? Sure these may have a micro impact but the company that gets in the trenches with their advisors and allows them to put their own face out there will win. They will attract higher quality, more entrepreneurial advisors that have a true impact on the market place through their brand, content and message they share with the world.
2. They Say “No” Rather Than Working to Understand
Let me help explain what I mean here through a couple personal stories of mine.
Right before I left my last company before starting my business, I wanted to do two things. I’ll talk about each one below:
First, I came across a great calendar service called Calendly. This service creates your own personal calendar link for different types of meetings. It links up to whatever calendar service you and your company uses so that when you share your link with someone, it knows when you are/are not available. I heard of so many people in other industries having success with it.
You simply create your own custom link, mine is www.calendly.com/daviddecelle. You can share it via text, email, in person, social media, whatever. It is a simple and easy to use interface for both you and the person you are sharing it with. They click on one of your open times that work for them, share the topic of conversation and schedule the appointment. Both you and they immediately get a notification of the time, it gets added to both of your calendars and you both even get a reminder before the meeting so you don’t forget. It’s awesome.
When I brought it to my compliance team to get approval, they said no. Now this wasn’t a local compliance team member in my office, this was the home office of a multi-billion dollar firm. I didn’t understand why. The only “client information” that was collected was their name, phone number and email. Nothing more personal than that. It would have made my business easier, more efficient and more predictable. They weren’t interested in hearing why I wanted it, they just said “no.”
Fast forward to me in my business now…
I went from making 40–50 phone calls per day to set appointments and when I set an appointment, I kept anywhere from 50%-60% of them. Meaning the others either cancelled or rescheduled. Now that I use this calendar service exclusively, I make 0 phone calls per day, and keep 95% of my meetings. No word of a lie. When people take the time to click on a link, find a time that works for them, go through the process of scheduling it themselves, they tend to keep the meeting.
This has allowed me to focus more on business development activities such as speaking events, content creation and networking via social media. But when I brought it to the attention of my former company, they were set in their ways from the last 150+ years and weren’t open to the idea of how this service could have an impact on the thousands of advisors they serve to make their businesses more efficient…smh.
Second, digital marketing is where people’s attention is. If you send out mailers, give out pens, or leave a business card, I’m sorry but they are most likely going in the trash never to be seen again. Look at the room next time a commercial comes on when you’re watching TV, people do one of three things — Use the restroom, engage in conversation, or most likely, look at their phones. People’s attention goes to their phones for the majority of the day when they aren’t focused on a particular task.
So this leads me to story number 2…
I wanted to create a video and a downloadable PDF that helped people with their personal finances. For example, I wanted it to cover topics like budgeting, student loan repayment, saving for your first home, etc. The vision was to have a video that shared a ton of value on a particular topic, for free and then invited them to click on a link to download a PDF that further builds on that topic so they can continue to get better. In exchange for the PDF, they would provide their email and now that email gets added to my email marketing list. Here, I could have emailed them every so often with other valuable pieces of content that showed my face, they could hear my voice and over time I would become the trusted figure of authority on that particular topic. Now, some of those people when offered a consultation to meet with me, would take me up on that offer and already have a certain amount of trust built because they had gotten better from the previous content I shared with them. In their eyes, why would this be any different?
So, as you are probably guessing, this idea got shut down hard. No negotiation, no time spent on learning why or how this would be accomplished, just a flat out no. It’s sad really, because every day these companies aren’t open to changing and evolving, they are slowly dying. The ways in which we communicate are changing, it’s all via social media, email, text — basically anything besides mailings and phone calls.
I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated when I get a phone call from a number I don’t recognize. Literally, my skin crawls and I view it as an interruption of my day. Now imagine, all of your potential clients feeling that same way when you call — you have an uphill battle in the very first interaction and that isn’t conducive to a fun and productive conversation.
They way I’ve built my business today has been through this exact strategy I mentioned above. I share valuable content on a daily basis, people get better because of it and I do that over and over and over again — every single day. People see my face when they wake up, when they go to bed and any time they go on social media in between. My messages that I share that day are created once but viewed thousands of time. To have that same impact the way in which our companies want us to, I’d have to be at networking events every hour of every day having the same conversation over and over again whereas my way, now, is much more efficient.
3. There’s No Focus On Truly Building a Personal Brand
As I mentioned briefly above, when our companies create our content for us and only allow us to use that, they are the ones dictating how we appear to the marketplace, not us. This strips us of our voice and in my belief our credibility. It basically shows that we are puppets of a particular organization and not running our own business. Why does this happen? Why do they do this? In my belief it comes down to one main thing -span of control, or lack there of.
Think about it, everything needs to be approved, which I understand and can appreciate. Quite frankly, I support it. You can’t have a bunch of knuckleheads running around saying whatever they want with no oversight. That’s when consumers can be taken advantage of and misunderstand certain topics and ideas. In any industry there are some bad apples but the good ones definitely outnumber those, so why penalize everyone, why limit everyone?
It’s because these companies don’t have enough people in place to monitor, scrub through and approve content on a daily basis from 10s, 100s or 1,000s of advisors. The average compliance officer is typically in their 50s and never grew up with social media and therefore may not understand it’s true impact on our business. But here’s the issue that’s larger than anything I’ve mentioned before in this article….
Sure, it limits our growth as business owners not being able to share our voice and message easily on these platforms. Sure it takes away our ability to build a personal brand that is just that, personal to us. But the major issue is that the average age of an advisor is over 55 years old. The amount of advisors in the industry have decreased by almost 15% in the last 5 years. this shows that there are way more people retiring then there are coming into our industry. This creates a massive problem and in turn a massive opportunity to crack this code.
Think about it — you’re a millennial, you’ve grown up on social media, that’s how you’ve communicated with people your entire life and now that you’re in the “real world,” you’re told to pick up the phone and start dialing. You’re told that you can’t utilize social media to grow your business the way you want. You’re told you have to do it “our” way even if their way is blatantly archaic. I don’t know about you, but that would be a huge turn off and I would leave — I did leave…
So here’s the deal…
The company who lightens up a bit and commits to working alongside their advisors to solve these problems will win long term. They will attract more talent and in turn increase and sustain their revenue moving forward. The ones that don’t, well — let’s wait and see but I don’t think their future is bright if they stay stuck in their ways.
I’m committed to working alongside these companies and their compliance teams to help in this process as I know it’s new to them and I’m willing to help. If you’re reading this and you are a compliance officer, know a compliance officer or team, have relationships with these large corporations or FINRA and the SEC, please let me know and be open to making an introduction. Like I said, I’m committed to helping, I’m committed to serving and I’m committed to sitting on the same side of the table as them to tackle this topic and give us the freedom we need, the freedom we deserve to grow our business.
If you’d like to schedule a call with me, my calendar link for a quick chat is below:
I’d be happy to help serve in any way that I can.
Cheers and stay tuned…