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There’s Work to Be Done, says Cybersecurity Report

FPA_2016Cybersecurity_Report_R7.inddA day doesn’t go by when there’s not some attempt to hack personal information, Bryan Baas, the managing director of risk oversight and control for TD Ameritrade Institutional said at press conference at FPA BE 2016.

Baas was speaking on the results of the “Is Your Data Safe? The 2016 Financial Adviser Cybersecurity Assessment” study conducted by the FPA Research and Practice Institute™ and sponsored by TD Ameritrade Institutional.

Advisers are well aware of the issue and 81 percent of those surveyed say it is a high priority for them. But despite this, less than half of the advisers surveyed don’t understand the risks and how to mitigate them.

“Cybersecurity is with us every, single day,” Dan Skiles, president of Shareholders Service Group and a member of the FPA Board of Directors said. “It is something advisers need to worry about today, tomorrow, 10 years from now.”

The report found that there are several areas where advisers can improve in terms of establishing and implementing documented policies and procedures.

When it came to governance and risk assessment, 57 percent of the 1,015 survey participants had documented policies and procedures in place; 59 percent had them in place for access rights and prevention; 58 percent had them for data loss prevention; 51 percent had them for vendor management; and 43 percent had them for incident response.

Simply becoming aware that there is work to be done is an important first step.

untitled-7041What Can Planners Do Now
It doesn’t have to be so complicated, said Brian Edelman, CEO of Financial Computer Services, Inc.

Become aware. Become aware of what components you need to be looking at. Take an inventory of your data and do some risk assessment, which is similar to what you do with your clients.

Know that if there is a breach, you are responsible for notification. It’s embarrassing and distracting to have to tell all your clients there has been a breach, but the rule is clear that you must be the one to notify the clients.

If you have plans in place, practice them once. Ensure that your team is aware of what to do in each type of event that could possibly occur.

Give your clients tips to stay safe. Oftentimes, a breach that happens to you happens because one of your clients was hacked. So give them tips to employ tools like dual-factor authentication on their Gmail accounts.

Vet your vendors. You’re trusting these third-party technology companies with your information, so ensure that they are safe themselves. Visit their offices and see how they work and ensure they’re doing all they need to do to keep you safe.

These things might be a pain, but they’re necessary steps to ensure yours and your clients safety.

“What is an inconvenience to you is most likely a roadblock to the bad guy,” Baas said.

Three upcoming whitepapers will be released by The FPA Research and Practice Institute™ and TD Ameritrade Institutional that will give advisers information on the following topics: how advisers are communicating with clients regarding cybersecurity; how advisers are training their teams on issues related to cybersecurity; and what tools and technology (and its associated costs) advisers are using to protect their business.

For the full study, visit www.onefpa.org/Cybersecurity.



Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.

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Top Ten Tips to Implement CRM

Everyone would like to maximize the use of their customer relationship management (CRM) software to reduce the workload, track the progress on servicing and sales and ensure staff is productive. The best way to maximize the use of any CRM is to implement it properly from day 1. Here are our top ten recommendations to successfully implement and maximize the use of your CRM.

  1. Plan the migration. Plan out the migration of data into new CRM thoroughly with the vendor. Know which data is moving, where it is moving to (what fields), when it will move and how long you should allocate for auditing and cleaning up the data. There is nothing worse than being surprised at how long it takes to migrate, to find out data is missing months after you moved to the new CRM or that data was placed in the wrong fields.
  1. Map out integrations. List the types of software that you want to integrate with your CRM to reduce data entry. Examples of types of software could be: form filling, financial planning, email, dictation, custodian AUM data feeds, portfolio accounting system, client portal, robo, online questionnaire, document storage and more. Then ask your CRM and other software vendors if the specific types of integrations exist, how they work to save you time and what are the implementation steps.
  1. Assign only one cook. Assign one staff person to implement and maintain the CRM. Too many cooks in the kitchen causes a huge mess within a CRM. Having one project manager will control the quality and integrity of the data.
  1. Sell, sell and sell. Before implementing the CRM, someone on your team needs to champion the change and sell the benefits to the staff. Change is difficult so staff need to be shown the benefits. Utilize the vendor to sell the system. Utilize a staff person to also show and sell it (use a demo license to show it to other staff). And send a few emails listing all the benefits of the new CRM BEFORE you implement the software.
  1. Categorize. Categorize all your contacts in the old CRM before migrating to a new CRM. Any CRM will allow you to pull up a report of all contacts within a certain category; this ability makes cleanup and use of the data 10 times faster.
  1. Merge, merge, merge. Create mail merge and email templates for all the documents and emails you send out frequently. There is no need to waste time typing in names, addresses or creating the same message repeatedly, from scratch.
  1. KISS (keep it simple). When you build out your drop down lists for fields, keep the number of items to a minimum. The more choices you provide in a drop down list, the less likely your staff will take the time to choose the right item.
  1. Flows are key. Create at least two to three workflows immediately. Building custom workflows is a long process and an art, not a science. By building a few workflows immediately, such as opening a new account, you will get comfortable with building workflows quickly. This is important as workflows are the biggest time saver. They identify your bottlenecks and eliminate wasted time spent on communicating or tracking a repeatable set of tasks.
  1. Limbo land. There is a time period between using the old and new CRM—we call this limbo land. You will want to communicate a policy for where to document contact changes, new additions, task changes, new tasks and so forth while in limbo land. Any change or new item should not be placed in the old CRM after the data is backed up and sent to the new CRM. And you do NOT want staff adding changes and new items to the new CRM until the project manager has audited the data and confirmed it doesn’t need to erased and migrated again.
  1. Sell, sell and sell. After implementing the CRM, provide best practices training every few weeks for at least two months to continue selling the benefits of the CRM. Allow the staff to share tips they have learned and have the project manager or champion train everyone on the proper use and shortcuts within the CRM.

Planning the implementation of the new CRM, or any new software, is the hard work. If the planning is done properly, the implementation and adoption is easier and produces a greater ROI and high adoption.

Jennifer Goldman


Jennifer Goldman
My Virtual COO
Boston, MA

Editor’s Note: FPA members receive a $500 member discount on a My Virtual COO consulting engagement. You can find more information here


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What Comes First—Changing the Tech or the Staff?

Firms are struggling with technology adoption because they believe their executives or staff can’t change or learn new methods of operating. So they stop implementing the tech (aka the change) and instead start interviewing potential hires to replace their current staff who appear unwilling to change and learn. This stoppage and hiring effort creates a dark cloud over the mood of the staff. It sends a message that the firm isn’t prepared to improve nor invest in change management. Rock star-quality staff take this stoppage as a sign and ultimately stop recommending improvements and cease their championing of change. If the stoppages happen often, your best staff might even start interviewing at other firms or start their own firm.

How do I know if my staff are able to learn new systems?
The easiest way to test the team’s ability to learn is to sell the change before implementing it. As the firm owner, you must believe in the change, know the benefits, and persistently encourage productive feedback. Remember that the administrative person might care about reducing data entry work, while the adviser will want this change to help them onboard a new client more efficiently. Staff that can’t adopt the change will stand out immediately. If they are your key team members, have your executive team talk with them and explore why they are resistant to the changes. Then, and only then, will you know if it is time to search through the resumes and start to recalibrate the staff with a new hire.

Do I lay off a loyal staff person when they can’t learn?
We all know it is very expensive (money, energy, time) to lay off and hire someone new. Any new hire requires you to use energy and time to train them on your firm’s method of operating, philosophy regarding client service and expectations. It is best to NOT lay off those who seemingly can’t embrace change and instead invest in training and change management first. Training can be in the form of scheduled weekly webinars, paying an outside expert or software provider to provide customized training, or having a staff person train his/her peer. Change management comes from the top. If you are not sure you are managing change properly, you can hire a coach to learn how to do this effectively now and in the future.

While you invest in training and management, you should also be scouring the earth for potential hires. A great employee, successor, or partner hire won’t fall into your lap the minute you decide you want to re-calibrate your team. It is never too soon to start networking and doing informational interviews and building your pipeline of candidates. If the training and change management does not produce the results you want, you know you can call upon a pool of qualified candidates.

Change isn’t easy—if it were, everyone would be doing it! Remember that any meaningful technology change—even implementing a new software program—takes more than 66 business days to adopt. Give your staff time to embrace the new tech and provide continuous training, positive reinforcement and examples of the long-term benefits. Most importantly, be sure to give yourself time to lead the troops with a positive attitude and realistic change management goals. Progress may be slow but as long as you’re seeing change transpire, rest well knowing your firm is on the right track.

Jennifer Goldman


Jennifer Goldman
My Virtual COO
Boston, MA

Editor’s Note: FPA members receive a $500 member discount on a My Virtual COO consulting engagement. You can find more information here

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Step Up Cybersecurity

As planners incorporate more technology into their offerings to clients, it’s imperative they stay on top of their cybersecurity measures.

“Cybersecurity is a major issue for financial planners in today’s highly technical, digital world,” writes Ben Lewis, FPA’s public relations team leader on an FPA Connect post calling for participants for a cybersecurity assessment that has since ended.

Anthony Stitch explains in the forthcoming August issue of the Journal of Financial Planning that planners who don’t provide the technology clients want these days may lose those clients to firms they like less but that offer the technology they prefer. This, he writes, is called digital attrition. Members, you’ll get to read the full article when it comes out. And if you’re not yet a member, maybe now is the time. Learn more here.

“As you incorporate more technology into the running of your firm, it’s important that you stay educated on best practices for cybersecurity,” Blane Warren, an industry leader in financial services marketing, compliance, and technology, writes on XY Planning Network’s website.

But planners this move toward providing more technology options means planners need to step up their cybersecurity game in order to keep their clients and themselves safe. Something they’re not currently doing very well, according to a report from External IT titled “Financial Services Firms Face Further Scrutiny of Their Cybersecurity Practices: Is Your Frim Ready?”

InvestmentNews reports that that report found three key areas were lacking in terms of financial cybersecurity: security policy, firms failing to audit their IT security; accountability when moving data, moving data to personal and home devices without tracking measures; and disaster recovery, not having emergency business continuity plans.

This isn’t to say that planners don’t want to address cybersecurity issues, rather they don’t know where to go to get their information, Brian Edelman, chief executive of Financial Computer Services told InvestmentNews.

Edelman recommends using a cybersecurity firm that understands financial services.

In a recent article, ThinkAdvisor recommended planners check out the following resources: National Institute of Standards and Technology (nist.gov) and the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (fsisac.com).



Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.

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Financial Advisers Are on Board with Social Media, but Questions Still Linger

The findings of the Putnam Investments 2015 Social Advisor Study, which surveyed more than 800 U.S. financial advisers, point to the fact that social media continues to become an increasingly essential tool for advisers to communicate with their clients and build their book of business. Here are some of the study results:

  • 81 percent of advisers currently use social media for business, up from 75 percent in 2014
  • 40 percent of advisers (vs. 25 percent in 2014) use four or more social networks for business
  • 69 percent of advisers report social media is a significant component of their overall marketing effort—up from 56 percent in 2014
  • 79 percent of advisers report acquiring new clients through social media (up from 66 percent in 2014) with average annual asset gain from such clients standing at $4.6 million

These numbers appear to provide tangible proof that social media has grown to be the most direct path for advisers to reach out and influence their key audiences. However, despite this success, some degree of skepticism among advisers continues to linger. Below, I’ve listed the three most recurring questions financial advisers pose to our firm about social media.

Does Social Media Really Matter?
When confronted with this question, we consistently reply that the answer is debatable. What works for a financial planning practice may not work for a wealth management firm. And, in some cases, social media may not be a choice at all. However, before rejecting it, there are some key factors to be considered:

  • Unlike meeting a prospect face-to-face, or attending a live marketing event, social media interaction does not require travel and the costs associated with it
  • It allows advisers to exhibit knowledge and expertise to an audience beyond her or his established database of contacts and leads
  • It empowers advisers to create a sizable virtual network to develop new business
  • It helps foster conversations about an adviser’s brand
  • It establishes a bridge between an adviser’s website and her or his target audience—a good social media page will drive traffic to the adviser website
  • It enables advisers to position themselves as an expert sources at a negligible cost

How and Where Do I Begin?
Traditionally, the answer to this question has to do with what the adviser is seeking to achieve. Before engaging in social media activities, we recommend that our clients familiarize themselves with what other advisers, journalists and bloggers are doing—for example, the type of topics they cover, the frequency of their posts, the volume and quality of response they receive. This preliminary exercise will enable them to gauge whether or not social media is an effort they “really” want to pursue.

The second step is getting acquainted with a couple of platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. After joining them and establishing suitable profiles, the next action is to create engaging content—topics of compelling interest to the adviser’s core audiences—that includes tips, guidelines and actionable ideas. Then post such content on the adviser’s website and concurrently proceed to “push” it via established social media accounts. Ultimately, your social media engagement should seek to achieve two key strategic goals: 1) engage your audience prompting it to share your expertise and guidance; and 2) direct traffic to your website.

How Can I Handle Compliance?
Traditionally, compliance is advisers’ major deterrent to social media. Often, this is due mainly to their lack of understanding on how to meet social media compliance requirements. Prior to launching into social media interaction, it is crucial that an adviser attains a good understanding of FINRA’s rules governing communication and specifically how they regulate social media activities. FINRA’s guidance, articles, podcasts and videos on this topic abound and are easily found on the Internet. To shield themselves and their firms from legal consequence arising from bad social media interaction, advisers must establish a social media policy—that includes archiving procedures and guidelines—and if needed, seek appropriate legal counsel.

With social media, like with any other type of marketing communication effort, advisers must pay utmost attention that any post, comment, tweet is FINRA compliant. For example, a post or tweet in which an adviser may support a specific stock or bond could represents a “recommendation.” As such, it could be consequently treated as a breach of FINRA’s suitability rule and bear legal consequences for both the adviser and her firm.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.


Editor’s Note: Other FPA social media-related content that may be of interest to you include:

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Social Media Strategies of High-Growth Firms

Your clients don’t want to have to rely on you for everything—they want information to make educated choices. And the way to engage them and other prospective clients is through content development and social media, found a recent study.

The study, titled “Communication Evolution: Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media,” was conducted by the Financial Planning Association and LinkedIn was conducted by If Not Now Research, found that was the case.

The study found that clients crave more knowledge and many high-growth advisory firms are satisfying that craving by curating content and sending it out to current and would-be clients via social media, which is termed in the report as “thought leadership.” And it’s paying off.

“The study draws an important connection between the drivers of client engagement and communications strategies that will help advisers stand out from the crowd,” said Julie Littlechild, President of If Not Now Research.

“This report aims to help financial advisers of all business models understand how their peers are engaging in social media and thought leadership, the connection between business growth and these communication tactics ,” writes Lauren Schadle, CEO and executive director of the Financial Planning Association.

Some of the study’s biggest takeaways include the following:

Clients are engaged online. All age groups surveyed engage in online searches, but different age groups do so differently. While younger clients (ages 18-44) are more likely to search prior to meeting an adviser, older clients (ages 55-64 and those over 65), are more likely to look up an adviser to validate their impression of them.

Clients are engaged in social media and they expect you to be too. The age range of those most engaged in social media is 18-44 with 62 percent of respondents active on LinkedIn, 86 percent active on Facebook, and 55 percent active on Twitter. LinkedIn is the primary site advisers are using—76 percent of those surveyed—which is a good thing because the clients surveyed said they expect their advisers to at least be on LinkedIn.

Clients want education. They sought you out because they want professional help, but they also want to be educated on the issues so they can make their own informed decisions.

Firms that curate and push out educational content grow. Firms that wrote blogs, newsletters and other informational content and pushed it out via social networking sites and email saw growth over those who didn’t. The study found that 67 percent of high-growth firms said they added new clients as a direct result of using multiple professional and social sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

“Today we have a choice: to watch how the change plays out or to take action and be part of the change,” the report notes. “The data suggests that the leaders are the high-growth firms that are reaping the rewards of driving the change.”

You can find the full study here.

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Email Prospecting: 4 Tips to Make the Most of 2.7 Seconds

email-on-ipadOne of the biggest challenges for advisers when prospecting is to secure that initial meeting. Often the preliminary outreach to a prospect may take place via email and in that case getting a positive response—or a response at all—can be an arduous mission to accomplish.

According to The Radicati Group, a technology research firm, 1.9 billion non-spam emails are sent every day. To stand a chance to be acknowledged, email messages must be smartly crafted to grab recipients’ attention and motivate them to respond. Other consumer studies also revealed that it takes only 2.7 seconds for an average person to decide if they want to read, delete or reply to an email. This is in part courtesy of our increased use of handheld devices, which currently represent a preponderant portion of all email interactions.

A couple of industry statistics will help you gauge the impressive growth and usage of email on mobile devices:

  • 53 percent of total email opens occurred on a mobile phone or tablet in Q3 2014, from 48 percent in Q2 2014.
    (Experian, “Quarterly email benchmark report,” Q3 2014)
  • Mobile email opens up 180 percent in three years, from 15 percent, Q1 2011 to 42 percent in Q1 2014.
    (Campaign Monitor, “Email interaction across mobile and desktop, Q1 2014)

What are some of the key factors that prompt prospects to delete emails? Key culprits traditionally include convoluted language, use of industry jargon and failure to make a strong case for value—are you worth your prospect’s time? Will you be for her or him a valuable source?

Ultimately, it is not the service or product that you are pitching that will prompt your prospects to take action. Rather, your capacity to convince them that you understand their challenges and that you can help them achieve their goals will be the deciding factor. This is what will persuade them that getting additional information or requesting to meet with you will be a good investment of their time.

Here are some of the crucial factors you must bear in mind when crafting an email:

  1. Grabbing Subject Line: Use concise language. Do not exceed 50 characters. Be clear, consistent, use action words to inspire and, when possible, consider adding the recipient’s first name
    Length: The statistics above make a compelling case for prospects reading emails on mobile devices. Consequently, keep your emails short—preferably under 100 words
  2. Personalize: According to HubSpot Science of Email research, personalizing an email increase click through rates by 14 percent. So, conduct some specific research that can help address the recipient’s challenges and openly quote it in the text.
  3. Credibility: Do not shy away from name-dropping. If the prospect was referred to you by a third party, mentioning that individual’s name may significantly increase the odds of a response
    Value: The first couple of sentences should unequivocally state what you are offering and why it is valuable. To accomplish this goal, clearly state your value proposition. Also, go the extra mile by sharing any educational material you may have on the topic and clearly enunciate to the reader the benefits she will derive from reading such material.
  4. Closing: In closing your email, remember that your goal is to establish an ongoing conversation. Include a call-to-action and word it in a personal and engaging manner, be it a meeting request or a telephone call.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.