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How digitally enabled advisors enhance the private client experience: Recap of the SIFMA Private Client Conference

“SIFMA members share in the common goal of bettering the industry along with the ability to change it for the better” – from SIFMA Private Client Conference 2014

sifma-mainAt the SIFMA Private Client Conference hosted by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) earlier this month, “the client” took center stage. Over 300 leaders across the private client industry gathered in New York City to discuss and share best practices regarding how to provide better client services, serve the next generation of clients, and bring on a new digitally-enabled advisor to improve the overall client experience.
Clara at SIFMA PCC     Thiel at SIFMA PCC
Our very own Clara Shih (CEO and founder of Hearsay Social) and John W. Thiel (Head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management)–both pictured above–joined other main stage speakers at the conference including:

  • Valerie Brown, CEO, Cetera Financial
  • Gregory Fleming, President, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management & Morgan Stanley Investment Management
  • Mary Mack, President and Head, Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC
  • Robert Mulholland, Group Managing Director & Head of Wealth Management & Investment Solutions, UBS Wealth Management Americas
  • Joseph E. Sweeney, President, Advice & Wealth Management Products & Services, Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
  • John Taft, CEO, RBC Wealth Management
  • and Mike White, CMO, Raymond James Financial.
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From left to right: Mike White (CMO, Raymond James Financial), Justine Metz (Head of Global Wealth Management, Marketing and Sales Support, Bank of America Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc.), Penny Pennington (Principal, Branch and Region Development, Edward Jones & Co., L.P.), and Rodney Prezau (SVP, Affluent Client Experience, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.) speaking at the SIFMA Private Client Conference 2014.

The client experience, changing expectations and the next generation

Kicking off the conference, Robert Mulholland from UBS Wealth Management Americas shared that, with a large aging population in the U.S., discussions at the dinner table among Baby Boomers have shifted to concerns related to long-term care, including the health of aging parents.
With this changing set of priorities, Robert argued that advisors need to be attuned to their Boomer clients’ needs, as well as those of their children, in order to improve client services and the overall client experience.


With over $30 trillion flowing from Boomers to Generation Y over the next few decades, the topic of Millennials came up as a key segment for financial advisors to reach. Millennials are seeking financial advice but will check online first (e.g., Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles) before reaching out for help or speaking with advisors, according to Valerie Brown, CEO, Cetera Financial.
Valerie added that advisors need to understand the outlook of the Gen Y investor who keeps 52% of their assets in cash, don’t want to be sold to, are much more skeptical than their parents on the value and returns of capital market, and demand transparency. Perhaps most striking: most Gen Y heirs don’t stay with their parents’ financial advisors.


With these evolving client needs and expectations, Mary Mack, President and Head, Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, highlighted that the industry and its advisors must work to transform the client experience. She added that this is especially the case since the client is now used to interacting when and how they want in today’s world of Amazon, Google and Starbucks-like consumer experiences. Mary also highlighted in her talk that the industry must adapt to a client who is on social, digital, and mobile.

How technology can enhance, not replace, the financial advisor

To reach clients – older and younger — Brand Meyer, Head of Independent Brokerage Group, Wells Fargo Advisors, commented that people are consuming info differently – 24/7 – and that the industry must embrace mobile and online solutions as an extension of their forms of communications and services.
Valerie cited a survey stating that loyal clients have up to 24 non-financial “touches” (i.e., informal communications) per year from their financial advisor over 12 months versus those less loyal clients who get 3 non-financial touches per year on average.
So how does social media help advisors?

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Raymond James CMO Mike White joins Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih onstage at the SIFMA Private Client Conference 2014.

The digitally enabled advisor

With a growing set of Gen Y investors, an aging population of Boomers, and a third of advisors set to retire in the next ten years, a critical call-to-action was made to grow the advisor base organically and enable advisors with technology.
In her keynote, Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih stated that social media can help the industry and financial advisors with many of the top challenges they face, from meeting the changing expectations of clients’ consumer behavior, to enabling advisors to build and deepen client relationships, to growing the advisor population, and to addressing the lack of trust in institutions by empowering the individual financial advisor.
Clara reinforced that advisors now need to meet their clients where they are, noting that nearly two billion people, including 60% of online adults 50 – 64 years old, now regularly access social networking sites.


Advisors are starting to meet that challenge: according to a recent survey, over 75% of advisors report using at least one social media account for business purposes. More importantly, they are starting to see real value from social media use.


Clara further noted that social media is an ideal, complementary channel for wealth management for three primary reasons:

  1. Clients are sharing and posting relevant, personal life events, which are key moments of truth for financial advisors to serve their clients’ needs.
  2. Millennials and Boomers go to social networks and other sites online for recommendations and content.
  3. The cost of staying in touch scales through social media, which provides wide reach while still feeling personalized thanks to photos and other forms of multimedia content supported on social media.

Clara closed by offering the audience members a few actions they can take to help their private client services succeed in the digital age. First, in order to stay relevant with end clients and advisors, leaders must help shift the organizational mindset from defense to offense for use of social, mobile and digital technologies. Second, they must help advisors seamlessly incorporate social, mobile, and digital into their practices by offering the right tools, training, and program. Finally, Clara submitted that, to be a champion for social media, the leaders in the audience need to lead by example and learn about how to use social media for business and be on social media themselves.
Hearsay Social will continue to explore these topics at its upcoming Social Business Innovation Summit next week in San Francisco. Top C-level, sales, and marketing leaders from financial services firms along with leaders from Silicon Valley companies such as LinkedIn and Klout will explore the topic of how social, mobile, and digital technologies can help transform the landscape of the financial services industry, enable advisors, and put the clients first.

Gary Liu

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