Skip to content

How social media helps Wall Street regain the trust of Main Street: Takeaways from SIFMA Annual, part 2

In my previous blog post, I summarized takeaways from the SIFMA Annual Meeting, where financial services leaders, regulators, and policymakers converged to discuss the theme of the conference (“Helping Americans Succeed, Helping Main Street Prosper”) and how financial institutions can restore the public’s trust and confidence in the industry.

Hearsay Social executives Michael Lock and Kristin Shevis with President Bill Clinton at SIFMA Annual Meeting 2013. In the event’s opening keynote, Clinton said that trust is critical and must be rebuilt; in order to do this, he said that one has to “go local.”

Restoring the public’s faith in the financial industry will take some work, but SIFMA CEO and Senator Judd Gregg highlighted 4 ways to do just that:

  1. Putting clients first

  2. Investing in America

  3. Driving transparency and cooperation

  4. Educating on the importance of the market economy and financial literacy

I would offer an additional strategy to enhance and accelerate the above recommendations. Specifically, investing in technology and training for our advisors, broker-dealers, and wealth managers on using social media to better reach Main Street and clients.

Social media is a key way to drive transparency, empower the public, and re-establish trust. It can enhance how businesses reach their clients and give firms a personality.

How exactly? Here are 4 tried and true principles that existed well before Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, but ring more true than ever in the social media era.

1. Be where your customers are

At a recent advisor conference I had the privilege to attend, it was highlighted that over 93% of US online adults who have a financial advisor have an active social media account. That’s not surprising since over 1.7 billion people now have a social network account on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+. Social media (done compliantly) is an invaluable platform to engage with clients.

Not being on social media as an advisor, on the flip side, is like not showing up to the cocktail party that your clients attended: you’ll miss out on talking to them firsthand about their lives and interests. Put another way, could you imagine if 93% of your customers were distributing information via email, but you didn’t have an email address?

2. People buy from people, not corporations

Former Senator Judd Gregg, SIFMA’s CEO, at SIFMA Annual Meeting. See more highlights on SIFMA’s website:

We’ve all heard this and, as consumers, we all know this. The same applies in the financial services world. In fact, it is actually more poignant to financial services institutions, whose brands have been tarnished by the financial crisis.

To address this, President Clinton said it best when he said trust is critical and must be rebuilt; in order to do this, he said that one has to “go local.” In the social media world, this means allowing advisors and agents to engage with their clients one-to-one over social media, as opposed to having a company page on Facebook and corporate Twitter handle that someone monitors. While required, that is not going to be the way to establish trust.

As E.F. Hutton said, this has to be done “one investor at a time,” and social media platforms like Hearsay Social enable advisors to do that compliantly and at scale.

3. Listen before you speak

In other words, “know your customer.” With over 1.7 billion people on social networks, including 98% of the US online population, there’s a wealth of information to be gained. Clients are sharing information at an increasing rate on social media that before would only surface during a face-to-face meeting. Life events like a new job, marriage, new baby, or a home purchase are all key “social signals” that can arm an advisor to better service clients and their needs.

4. Be human

In other words, be authentic, be cooperative, and be a resource. Social media allows everyone to have a voice, which can be an asset when done right but a liability when done wrong. People don’t want to be sold to on social networks. They want to hear from experts and engage with people who have interests similar to theirs, both personally and professionally.

Beginning with the end in mind, if the goal of the financial services industry is to help Main Street prosper and re-establish trust, enabling financial advisors and wealth managers to become trusted advisors means enabling them to be the credible experts they are. This requires listening (see #3 above) and then sharing information that clients find relevant, valuable, and timely. Over time, clients will view the advisor as a tremendous resource and someone who they trust and want to hear from on a regular basis both online and offline.

Social media enables advisors and their firms to educate the public in a transparent way, especially as trust and influence have decentralized from traditional institutions to individuals.

How Hearsay Social helps financial firms

Hearsay Social enables financial service firms and its employees to be compliant using social media across all devices, thereby meeting the supervision, monitoring, and record retention requirements defined by regulators such as FINRA and the SEC. In addition, by distilling social media posts and communications into relevant social signals important to a financial services professional, Hearsay Social enables financial advisors, wealth managers, and asset managers to engage the right people with the right message at the right time – a big step forward in delivering high quality service and becoming the much sought-after “trusted advisor.”

While social media is not the silver bullet to re-establish Main Street’s faith in Wall Street, it is a critical communication channel for a two-way dialogue and relationship-building that financial services firms, their leaders, and their advisors can no longer leave behind.

4 ways Wall Street will regain the trust of Main Street: Takeaways from SIFMA Annual, part 1

It’s been over 5 years since the financial crisis, yet do you trust financial institutions the same way you did before 2008? Are you confident that Wall Street and the folks who represent the firms in banking are being transparent and working in your best interest?

These are the questions that were being asked and addressed last week at the SIFMA Annual Meeting in New York City.

Representing 575 member firms and over 800,000 employees in the securities business alone, SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association) brings together hundreds of securities firms, banks, and asset managers to promote job creation and economic growth.

At last week’s Annual Meeting, almost 1,000 financial services executives from America’s top banks congregated to hear from thought leaders, practitioners, and rule makers including former President Bill Clinton, Senator Judd Gregg, SEC Chair Mary Jo White, FINRA Chairman and CEO Richard G. Ketchum, and former Governor Jeb Bush.

The theme of the conference, “Helping Americans Succeed, Helping Main Street Prosper,” placed the spotlight on how financial institutions can restore the public’s trust and confidence in the industry.

So how will Wall Street and its financial institutions regain the trust of Main Street? Judd Gregg, SIFMA’s CEO and former U.S. senator, laid out 4 practices that SIFMA and its members are driving:

1. Putting clients first

“It’s the start of open dialogue and clear expectations, both of which build trust and are critical in helping clients determine their financial goals, then reach them through appropriate investments,” said Chet Helck, SIFMA chairman and CEO of Raymond James Global Private Client Group.

It is up to SIFMA members, he noted, to earn back trust and have the discipline to uphold standards by which they operate, as well as identify those who aren’t. He also shared with the audience that Raymond James Financial, when launching or changing new programs and offerings, always asks, “how does this affect our clients?”

Mary Jo White, chair of the SEC, added that the role of the SEC also facilitates this through regulations and enforcement of those regulations focused on transparency and fraud prevention.

2. Investing in America

The financial services industry plays a key role in the path to prosperity for Americans, said Jim Rosenthal, COO of Morgan Stanley, so the industry must continue to provide the foundation for growth and prosperity by funding small businesses through an efficient lending process.

From his own experience in meeting people from all walks of life as part of the Clinton Global Initiative, President Clinton said that one can’t underestimate the difficult position the majority of people face. Clinton offered specific ideas that the industry can help, including micro-credit lending to fund new business ideas, training, and new job growth.

Clinton also highlighted the need to target those with requisite skills and get them trained to prepare for the “next generation economy.”

3. Driving transparency and cooperation

It’s critical to transform the industry to be safer and more transparent to the general public.

To do this, regulations and enforcement help, but as Governor Jed Bush explained, it’s critical to “simplify the rules and make them more clear” for both the financial institutions’ teams who need to implement and abide by them and the general public.

In addition to transparency, cooperation is key. President Clinton highlighted that we live in one of the most interdependent ages in history: there has never been greater trade, travel, and technology than there is today. America and the financial services industry, he said, should focus on cooperation to drive shared prosperity. For example, large financial institutions and banks should find common causes with community banks who want to make good loans to individuals and businesses.

4. Educating on the importance of the market economy and financial literacy

Education campaigns, according to President Clinton, should focus on the basics:

  • Discuss issues or topics that are “self-evident”

  • Communicate “how we can help you” with specificity

  • Share how free enterprise works

  • Explain the rules and intent of Dodd-Frank

  • Provide examples of how “we think you can improve upon your current situation”

One program that highlights SIFMA’s commitment to educating the younger generation is its annual Stock Market Game, which helps elementary school students learn first-hand about the stock market.

Overall, the conference framed several of the challenges the industry and America faces, and offered many perspectives on potential solutions with initiatives like the one above to make SIFMA’s goals a reality.

One other practice I would offer to enhance and accelerate those above would be for financial services firms to invest in social media technology and training for its advisors, broker-dealers, and wealth managers to better reach Main Street. To her credit, when SEC Chair Mary Jo White was asked by session moderator, Peter Cook, Chief Washington Correspondent and Host of “Capitol Gains” for Bloomberg Television, whether or not she was a person who uses social media, she replied, “I think you have to be a social media person today to some degree.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Social media is a key way of driving transparency, empowering the public, and re-establishing trust. It can enhance how businesses reach their clients and give firms a personality.

How exactly? Stay tuned for part 2 of my takeaways and recommendations from SIFMA Annual.