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Personal touches on social media key to building relationships

thinkadvisor-logoAs a busy financial professional, you don’t have a ton of extra time to manage your social media presence. A standard, solid strategy for advisors today is to find time once a week to post and schedule links to industry or company articles. But, as you’ve likely discovered, this doesn’t result in very many likes, comments, or other forms of engagement from your audience.
So how do you boost your social media presence and make yourself stand out from the pack?
While it’s crucial to share professional content — that’s how you establish credibility — there’s something equally important: showing off your own personal voice. Building relationships within the financial industry has always been about trust, and today you do that by being genuine and trustworthy not only in your business activities, but also on social networks. Customizing your content with your own voice is key to social media success: in fact, content with personalized messages performs six times better than generic links without your customization.
The five tips in this ThinkAdvisor article outline some easy steps you can take to become a more engaging social poster through your personality.
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Social businesses can increase trust and transparency: Recap from the 2014 FINRA Annual Conference

trust If technology and collaboration are key to restoring investor trust and confidence, what role will social media play?
At the 2014 FINRA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., one panel of experts discussed how firms are embracing and using social media in a session called ”Social Media, Digital Communications and Compliance.” The panel was moderated by Amy Sochard (Senior Director, FINRA Advertising Regulation), and included Shayna Beck (Senior Manager and Head of Retail Communications, the Vanguard Group, Inc.), Windy Lawrence (Chief Compliance Officer, Lead Director, and Associate General Counsel of AXA Distributors, LLC), and Joseph Price (Senior Vice President and Counsel, FINRA Corporate Financing).
The panel focused on a number of topics including: how broker-dealers are supervising social media, partnering with marketing to incorporate compliance considerations into broker-dealers’ social strategies, and applying FINRA’s guidance on content and mobile device use.
Here were some of the highlights.

Collaboration and privacy

Both Shayna and Windy agreed on the importance of facilitating collaboration between a team of internal stakeholders in driving social media policy. At Vanguard, a social media governance council was created with various stakeholders to accomplish a few things:

  1. Work together on any new social media program they were looking to launch
  2. Work together to “kick the tires” of existing social program
  3. Determine if they have the right technology in place
  4. Discover if they are educating their crews appropriately to use these platforms

The Vanguard team meets every month to ensure that things are working and held together, which has allowed them to mature in this space. Brand engagement through content has allowed Vanguard to listen to its clients and hear what they are saying about their brand.
When you look at social media, explained Windy, one of the things that emerges almost immediately is the “multi-dimensional risk aspects” that it introduces, so it’s important to have the commitment and understanding of all stakeholders. When it comes to the creation of a social media policy, it would be dangerous for any firm to only consider regulatory guidelines.  Privacy is very important and firms need to establish data security and disclosures to protect the firm, employees, and clients.

Social media best practices

AXA, which is heavily involved with social, ensures proper representation from two perspectives:
1. Their corporate presence and
2. Individual AXA Advisors financial professionals.
The way they engage on social is different. They want to use their networks and personal brands to engage at a level where they get to know their fans. Although AXA Advisors does not allow its representatives to solicit via social, it does allow them to share content, the majority of which is pre-approved.
“From the compliance perspective,” explained Windy, “we like being able to allow reps to use content that has been approved and we feel comfortable with.”
Initially, AXA Advisors did not allow postings without review, however, as time went on the organization began to allow for interactive content. Compliance staff monitor social media, and look at queues on social content that require moderation or review. The firm also uses a lexicon-based tool to alert compliance of any “trigger words” that will flag a need for review and prior approval. According to Windy, they’ve struck the right balance and understand that the idea behind social is the need to be interactive and timely. Technology helps provide a much more seamless process.
From the financial professional perspective, the challenge is in effectively using social as another marketing tool. So far no one is using it exclusively, however, it’s fast becoming a necessary part of how they market their business and complements their existing marketing activities.
Shayna shared how Vanguard manages the risk of posted content by investing in training and ensuring their people tasked with content know what they can and cannot post in advance. Twice a month they have “Power Hour” live events and are able to respond to social postings quickly by getting stakeholders from compliance and public relations along with a writer and editor in a single room (or via chat) to respond to client inquiries. As questions come in, they follow a quick process of having the responses vetted before going live.

Supervision

From a historical perspective, AXA has progressed over the last 5-6 years in step with the changes in guidance. Having clear guidelines to define the difference between personal information and professional information helped narrow the scope of items that would require supervision. The challenge of categorizing the level of interaction between representative and the public determines how you supervise it. Fortunately, technology has evolved at the same time that the regulation and guidance evolved, and the ability to capture, retain, and review made it easier to adopt social and the ability to mitigate the content.
AXA determined early on that, because supervising everyone at the same level cannot sufficiently address the varied types and purposes of user content, they needed to thoughtfully segment their employee base and then focus separately on their registered representative population.
By segmenting the population, AXA was able to assess from a risk perspective if they had the resources to support supervision. They also looked at their social media policy and individual feature items from LinkedIn and Facebook. Windy emphasized that, when creating a firm’s training program, you want to be very clear about what users can and cannot do on the platform and about what features are available.
At Vanguard, they only have a corporate presence, so only a handful of folks are publishing on the site at time: no individual representatives are adding content to raise concerns on supervision. In addition, they have defined policies and training in place to minimize risk and follow up quickly on any red flags that may occur.
Hyperlinks
On the topic of hyperlinks, the one-click approach can only apply for certain communications. Space limitations may make it hard to have the actual prospectus or disclosures, but a link can be provided to both.
Key considerations and effective approaches to hyperlinks include:

  • Static content links
  • Interactive content links
  • 3rd party versus business partner considerations
  • Disclosures and disclaimers

According to Windy, AXA treats hyperlinks like any other interactive content.  If there is a trigger word, it gets brought up. They also have proper disclosures to differentiate between content that AXA provides and content that is from a third party.

Mobile

There are challenges and risks to mobile, especially if a firm adopts and allows for employees to bring their own devices to conduct company business. There are also positives, however, especially around the interactive nature of business and the ability to share more content using apps.
Windy shared how AXA created an iPad application about variable annuities–not the easiest product to talk about.  Before developing the app, both marketing and compliance collaborated to ensure their goals were aligned to ensure it was easy to understand the product and how it works. The technology around the iPad app allowed AXA to provide a certain level of information that would not have otherwise been easy to provide via a print or more traditional format. AXA worked closely with FINRA to develop the application, in the end providing a more dynamic way to showcase its product in a clear, thorough and balanced way.
Shayna sees this as a progressive step on leveraging the technology for an improved customer experience: ”I do see the marketing goal and the compliance goal starting to align now with this technology.”
There are so many new and different ways to design an app that allows you to more easily share information versus a one dimensional brochure or website and she encourages firms to pick up the phone and call your FINRA rep to talk about new technology and how a new approach may actually help investors.

Spot checks

23 firms participated in the social media spot checks, and most were able to illustrate that they were doing what had been asked of them to do. Firms were providing training on differences between personal and business postings on social, had a process to retain and supervise records, and were doing attestations and disclosures.
According to Windy, the spot checks went relatively well and provided AXA an opportunity to take an objective view of their social program. The discovery provided them an assessment of where improvements could be made and the audit served as a template on what to do and what not to do. It was also an important process for the marketing department to know what regulators were looking for and it provided a reason for why supervision is set up the way it is.

Conclusion

The regulatory environment continues to evolve and technology is providing both new avenues for risk and solutions. FINRA continues to reinforce its commitment to work with member firms to restore investor faith in the financial markets, however, it will require collaboration between firms and regulators to make it happen. Recognizing that consumers are moving towards social to make informed decisions on the products and services they purchase, those firms that adopt a social strategy will be well-served, as illustrated by AXA and Vanguard from the social media panel. Member firms and regulators are aligned in a common goal to improve the relationship between financial markets and the consumers that drive it.

Read more:

Technology and collaboration key to restoring consumer confidence and trust in financial markets: Recap from the 2014 FINRA Annual Conference

finra stock photoOnce again Hearsay Social was proud to participate in the 2014 FINRA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

Regulators from FINRA, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) joined financial leaders from leading organizations including AXA, Wells Fargo, LPL Financial, and Barclays to discuss the evolving economy and financial markets.

In his opening remarks at the conference, Richard Ketchum (Chairman and CEO, FINRA) echoed the same themes discussed at the SIFMA Compliance and Legal Society event in Orlando earlier this year: namely, the need to restore investor confidence and trust in the securities industry.

Furthermore, the Economic Confidence Index (ECI), which averages how Americans rate current economic conditions with their expectations for the future, shows that things are not improving quickly. One in five Americans graded the U.S. economy as weak, according to recent figures, while 34 percent rated it as poor. Additionally, while 39 percent of Americans said the economy is improving, another 56 percent said it is getting worse. Although the markets have recovered, people haven’t.

That’s hard to believe considering that it’s been seven years since the credit crisis affected housing markets and six years since the 2008 market plunge. The last market collapse, however, is still vivid in our collective memories, creating a crisis of confidence among investors.

How are we to turn the tide, and what is the prescribed solution to restore trust in the securities market? The answer may lie in embracing new technology and collaboration.

The new age of regulation puts the investor first, and FINRA is determined to be a key engine in restoring trust in the securities markets. According to Ketchum, today FINRA’s risk-based exam program is more data-driven: they are collecting more information electronically weeks before a scheduled exam and using available technology to better manage and analyze the data.

Using a Risk Control Assessment (RCA) and regulatory intelligence in the “High Risk Broker Program,” FINRA is speeding up and improving the efficiency of its exams. To improve and promote investor confidence, FINRA focuses on a strong set of organizing principles:

  • To be data informed,
  • To be technology empowered,
  • To be responsive to change, and
  • To be capable of more quickly and effectively identifying and disciplining bad actions.

The Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System (CARDS) is an important next step to fulfill these principles and is designed to provide swift and responsive action.

“With the technologies that are now available to us,” explained Ketchum, “we can do things to transform our exam program in ways that haven’t been available to us before. And frankly, it would be unconscionable not to embrace these technological advancements to better fulfill our investor protection and market integrity mission.”

That said, the collection and management of data to identify trends and possible risks has been met with controversy and concerns regarding, costs, control and the security of such a large database. FINRA received approximately 800 comment letters about it.

Despite the controversy, it’s a step in the right direction for FINRA to be using the most advanced technology solutions, investing resources, staff, and time to restore investor confidence and trust in the markets.

I believe Ketchum when he says that they value member firm engagement and that their message and outreach for feedback is genuine and driven to “get it right.” I also believe that social media and networking activities by member firms will play a much larger role in improving and restoring the confidence that has been lost. Social is built on the core principles of authenticity and transparency–values that are key to rebuilding trust. A connected and trusted advisor is one that is open to share and provide guidance in times of uncertainty, helping clients navigate their financial resources to meet their objectives.

FINRA cannot do it alone, however, and it will require the collaboration and partnership of member firms and evolving technologies to get it right. As Ketchum states in the conclusion of his keynote presentation, “Our interests are aligned, and putting the investor first is a goal we should have in common. The investing public deserves nothing less.”

I agree.
Read Ketchum’s full comments from the FINRA Annual Conference and learn more:

AXA and Hearsay Social share international plans at LeWeb

As we wrote in our last blog post recapping the LeWeb conference in Paris, the next 10 years of social business will be bigger, smarter, more mobile, and–according to both Hearsay Social and AXA, a global leader in financial services–more international.

In an interview with LeWeb founder Loic Le Meur (@loic), who asked about our recent $30 million round of funding, Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih (@clarashih) explained that growing outside North America is a majority priority for the next few years: “Hearsay Social has very big ambitions and a significant focus for us is around international expansion,” Clara shared with the audience.

This global theme was echoed by AXA’s Chief Marketing & Distribution Officer Frédéric Tardy, who announced a global partnership with Hearsay Social while on stage at LeWeb:

“For distribution we have a lot of agents and advisors at a global level. We signed an agreement with Hearsay Social that allows advisors to use social networks in an authentic way. Through social we have seen significantly more business in the U.S.–my goal is to contribute to transform the company globally.”

Frédéric’s global vision focused on a number of key areas, from joining the new digital frontier to renewing old-fashioned business sense:

“The future belongs to traditional companies that know how to transition to digital. The key point for us at AXA is trust. Trust is the new currency. Over the next ten years we will be successful if we use our traditional expertise, continue to build the trust of our customers, and embrace the new opportunity with digital.”

If you missed Fred’s conversation with Marion Moreau (Editor in Chief, FrenchWeb) at LeWeb, watch below:

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.