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5 Tips to Protect Your Practice from Cybersecurity Threats

Spring is finally here and this time of year always brings a renewed focus on getting healthy for summer beach vacations. But now that a fresh season is among us, it’s time for us to also focus on the cyber health of our practices.

According to Security Magazine, there is a hack attack every 39 seconds on average. As a firm, we at Kestra Financial are always doing whatever we can within our internal systems to protect the privacy of our partner firms and their clients.

However, there are a few things you as an adviser can do proactively for added protection.

Train your staff to be vigilant. Businesses often don’t realize the biggest threat to their cybersecurity health is, unintentionally, their employees. To help mitigate this threat, train your staff to be weary of emails that claim to be from trusted partners but don’t appear to make sense (these are likely phishing attacks). Also, warn your staff to not type username and password information into a website simply because it asks for it. This is the most common way our advisers get breached. Odds are, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. When in doubt, proceed with caution.

Practice safe web behavior. Do not type sensitive information into websites without an “https” prefix included as part of the URL. Always use strong passwords that are at least eight characters or longer and include a mixture of symbols, letters and numbers. As a rule of thumb, if your password is in the dictionary, it is likely not strong enough. Also, be sure to never use the same password across multiple websites.

Beware of ransomware. When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s not just about privacy, but also access. Sometimes, instead of stealing your data, hackers will encrypt your computer and hold it for ransom until they are paid. Nowadays, it is fairly simple for hackers to conduct clandestine, international transactions, especially with anonymous digital currencies such as bitcoin. With this in mind, your backup strategy is almost just as important as your cybersecurity strategy. On a recurring basis, practice backing up your data and then re-uploading it back into your system. If you have a strong backup strategy, you can make yourself immune to ransomware attacks.

Avoid using obscure, free software downloads and file-sharing utilities. This is frequently how hacking activities start and spread. Free video conversion utilities are especially common and should not be downloaded unless they have been purchased from a trustworthy source. Even if only one employee downloads a virus, it could spread across the firm.

Heed warnings. If you are using a browser and get an error message noting an invalid web certificate, you should never continue. Websites oftentimes get hijacked, and the only way to know if your website is actually the one you were looking for is if there is a valid certificate. For example, hackers can screenshot what the Gmail login page looks like and fool you into thinking you’ve landed on that page, even though they’ve redirected you to their site. When a website masquerades as another website, it is called the “Man-in-the-middle attack,” and it should be avoided at all costs.

In conclusion, if you suspect that you’ve been hacked or your data has been stolen, act quickly. At Kestra Financial, we encourage our advisers to contact us for assistance whenever they suspect they may have fallen victim to cyberattack.

Kevin Witt

Kevin Witt is the chief technology officer for Kestra Financial, where he leads the company’s drive to provides its advisers with innovative tools and technology that will empower their success. Kevin’s team is responsible for the design, development and implementation of a wide portfolio of applications used by employees at the Kestra Financial home office and advisers in the field.

Editor’s Note: A version of this post appeared on Kestra Financial’s blog and can be found here

 


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Integration, Security and Digital Experience

Financial advisers were projected to spend approximately $98,000 on technology in 2017, according to the InvestmentNews 2017 Adviser Technology Study, co-sponsored by Laserfiche and TD Ameritrade Institutional.

To make the most of your technology investment, purchase technology that does three things: (1) integrates with other technology; (2) keeps your clients’ information safe; and (3) provides a great digital experience.

Kenneth Corbin wrote in the Financial Planning article, “The Keys to Choosing Compliance Technology,” that ensuring all the technology you pay for communicates with each other helps you get the most of your spend.

“Integration is going to be huge for me knowing that I don’t have to set up any integrations myself,” Lisa Graham, product manager at eMoney, told Financial Planning. “By integrating those systems, you really alleviate a lot of that manual burden.”

Vetting third-party technology vendors to ensure they’re doing their due diligence when it comes to protecting your clients’ data is essential to keeping information safe. But other things planners can do when it comes to cybersecurity are to communicate to your clients how you keep their information secure and help them learn some skills for how to do the same.

“Wealth management is as much about information protection as it is about asset management and financial planning,” Wes Stillman wrote in the Financial Planning article, “Cybersecurity Breaches: When Doing Nothing Won’t Cut It.”

Educating clients on how to keep their information safe is helpful. Tell clients what you’ll ask for via email. Encourage them to confirm your email was sent by you if they feel it’s suspicious. And communicate that the way you access their information is safe while asking them how they access information on their end. If they don’t access their information over safe networks, use the opportunity to provide them with tips for best practices.

Investing in a great digital experience is of utmost importance. InvestmentNews reported in its 2017 study that people want to be connected digitally.

“Whether they offer their own digital solution or partner with others to provide one within the context of their firm, advisers must be prepared to meet the demand for automated, lower-cost, and less people-intensive approaches to providing financial advice,” the study reported. “What advisers want to do, whether it’s digital or analog, they want to be able to provide account aggregation, performance reporting, all-in fees transparency, and deliver it 24/7,”

Lee Gordon, CEO of Mesirow Wealth Advisors told Financial Planning. “All the applications are there, but tying them together, making them an elegant, user-friendly experience for the client—that’s the missing piece.”

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Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


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Planning for a Digital Legacy

Increasingly, the digital property of financial planners and their clients is up in the clouds, somewhere or another.

It turns out that the intersection between our mortality and the immortality of our digital property has become an important part of the estate planning process. That’s right—not only do you need to make plans for your tangible assets, but you also need to make plans for your email, social media, banking and financial accounts (investments, of course, but also things like bitcoin and PayPal), online memorabilia and documents; not to mention all those pictures, which at the time seemed artistic, but now just make up an ever-lengthening feed of status updates.

It’s important to know that a person’s digital property and electronic communications are referred to as “digital assets” and the companies that store those assets on their servers are referred to as “custodians.” The reason this matters is that these digital assets are usually governed by a terms of service agreement rather than by property law, and in many cases these agreements are silent when it comes to digital assets after Internet users pass or become incapacitated.

The other problem is the sheer number of online accounts we have today. Some estimates show that each American has, on average, 130 online accounts and that this number could grow to 207 by 2020.

What Now?

Fortunately, many states have enacted a measure to help simplify this issue. The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA) allows a fiduciary the legal authority to manage another’s property and specifically allows Internet users the power to plan for the management and disposition of their digital assets. At this point, all but 8 states have enacted this or a similar law, but it’s likely that every state will pass a law regarding fiduciary access to digital assets in the near future.

The action steps are to include the idea of digital assets in your normal estate planning and wealth transfer conversations with families. Along with that, you should include an amendment to a client’s existing will, trust or power of attorney which gives the designated agent the authority to direct or dispose of these assets. This amendment may take the form of a Virtual Asset Instruction Letter (VAIL) which allows one to list accounts, instructions for those accounts and the person(s) designated to access those accounts.

While many may doubt the urgency of this legislation, even the most Internet-resistant person can’t help but admit that our lives are becoming more and more digital. The assets that are housed in the cloud have value. Airline miles or hotel points have obvious monetary value, and others like pictures, emails or creative works have mostly sentimental value. The important thing to remember is that a person’s legacy is made up of both sides of that coin.

So even though that Luddite client may scoff at this idea, it has become an important part of the estate planning process. I’m sure that after having this conversation, that client will provide a status update to all their Facebook friends letting them know how happy they are to have had it.

Editor’s note: A version of this post appeared on the Janus Henderson blog. You can find it here.

Ben Rizzuto

Ben Rizzuto, CFS, is a retirement director for the Defined Contribution and Wealth Advisor Services Group. In his position Rizzuto works with financial advisers, platform partners, Janus Henderson colleagues and clients to find solutions for today’s increasingly difficult retirement issues, whether they be within retirement plans or for those clients that are trying to figure out how to retire on their own terms. He also contributes to the dialogue surrounding these issues as the host of the “Plan Talk” podcast and through periodic posts to the Janus Henderson Blog.


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Overcome 4 Business Challenges with Tech and Training

Advisers are being sold technology to solve their problems at every corner, said Greg Friedman, founder, CEO and president of Private Ocean.

“Technology is so oversold to all of us,” Friedman said at a recent FPA Retreat 2017 session.

It’s a combination of technology and staff training that is the key to managing business challenges, Friedman said. He knows this because during his time in the industry, he’s seen some things.

“I am the poster child for every problem this industry has,” Friedman said, who started Friedman and Associates in 1991 at age 28 with two associates—his twin toddlers—and now the company has “evolved through all stages.” Private Ocean—the result of a merger between Friedman and Associates and Salient Wealth Management—now has 24 full-time employees and seven advisers.

Friedman gave attendees tips on how to solve the four common business challenges—business development, marketing, time management and efficiency.

Utilize available technology. Prospecting becomes easier if you have software that can show you how you are possibly connected to prospects. Friedman uses Relationship Science, which allows planners to plug in a name and see all the connections that adviser potentially has with that prospect.

Marketing automation is another helpful piece of technology. When prospects enter their email on your site, the automation will automatically send the prospect something and then notify you when you have a bite, Friedman said.

Don’t forget CRM.

“CRM is core,” Friedman emphasized. “I don’t care which ones you use, but use one.”

Develop and reward employees. Friedman said having the staff on board is a must for success.

“Having that data and having those systems means nothing if people don’t know how to use it or know how to get clients,” he said, also suggesting that firms provide ongoing sales training and coaching. If advisers are uncomfortable with “sales” training, call it “relationship,” “communication,” or “consulting” training.

Designing a compensation structure that rewards top advisers while not penalizing advisers who don’t meet goals is a way to motivate advisers, Friedman said.

Implement service models effectively. It’s unsustainable to give an eclectic mix of clients the full range of your services, so pick the clients who may not be a match for you and figure out a way to gently steer them to a more appropriate firm or planner.

Also, define what your services are and make more efficient assignments, giving the simple client cases to junior associate advisers and free up time of your more experienced advisers to take on the more profitable, complex clients.

Outsource when needed. Private Ocean outsources some of its marketing efforts to a company called Set Wave, which helps it use social media in the most effective ways.


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5 Reasons Financial Advisers Can’t Afford NOT to Blog in 2017

Your relationships with clients and prospects need to be strong to weather 2017’s potential storms—the DOL fiduciary rule, a new president looking to draw back government regulation, Brexit kicking in by April, increasingly unstable international markets, and more.

Building that relationship is a matter of regular communication. While your existing clientele may communicate with you via phone, visits and email, the majority of the population is now acquainting itself with new advisers online—specifically via blogs. Yet many advisers still aren’t blogging regularly.

Here are five reasons advisers can’t afford NOT to blog in 2017.

1.) It’s the fastest, easiest way to dispel client fears in a year packed with unknowns. The markets are off to a better start than they were last year, but who knows what tomorrow holds?

Most advisers could set their watches around the calls they get from their more anxious clients when things get bumpy.

Answering client questions is a great way to connect, but answering the same questions over and over can be a major time-eater. Save yourself some time by blogging regularly and sending out links to old blogs that address their concerns when market news goes south.

2.) Last year, Google acknowledged that content is king when it comes to search rankings. While Google’s search ranking factors are largely a mystery, just last year they said that new content is one of their top measurements.

The easiest way to regularly add new content to your site? You guessed it: blogging.

Bonus tip: Google also said outbound and inbound links are high on their list.

Outbound links point to other sites from your own site. The best and easiest place to include outbound links? Your blog. Shoot for one to three in every piece.

Inbound links point to your site from other sites. These are more difficult because they require someone else linking to you. But no one wants to link to your “About Us” or “Services” page. Most links between sites point to one place: blogs.

3.) It’s a good way to build trust with prospects (although, admittedly, not the best). If everything goes through with the DOL’s upcoming fiduciary rule change, a lot of advisers will no longer be able to use their fiduciary status as a differentiator. How will you prove you can be trusted?

The best way to establish trust? Actually, it’s face to face interactions—not blogs—but your blog isn’t too far down the list. You don’t have to look far for people who have established themselves as trustworthy authorities, thanks largely to regular blogging (and a fresh perspective): Michael Kitces, Carl Richards, and Wade Pfau, among others.

4.) It’s the best digital driver of new leads. Blog posts are great because they’re a permanent fixture on your site. If you write a post on tax loss harvesting and then a year later someone is searching for that subject, they could happen upon your site.

But old blog posts have nothing on new ones. In my experience, a blog post will typically earn 98 percent of its traffic within the first five days.

The best way to keep new leads rolling in is with new blogs.

5.) Stake your claim with your personas. In the financial industry, not everyone is blogging, but 2016 saw the number increase exponentially. That means countless advisers are out there blogging directly to their desired audience, which quite possibly overlaps with your audience. If you’re not blogging about stuff your personas care about, you’re probably not on their radar.

You might have all the knowledge in the world, but if you haven’t written it down somewhere online, it might as well not exist.

So make 2017 the year you start blogging, and stop missing out on prospects. If you’re still not sure how to get your blog machine up and running, check out this offering from Mineral and Wendy J. Cook Communications, one of our favorite content providers for advisers.

zach-mcdonald

Zach McDonald
Editorial Director
Mineral Interactive
Omaha, Neb.


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9 Cybersecurity Tips to Keep Your Firm Safe

If somebody walked up to you and asked for your house keys, you wouldn’t give them away. But when somebody asks for our key identifying information on the Internet, most of the time we willingly hand it over. That’s what representatives from SeeGee Technologies Inc., a next-generation technology solution provider, told FPA staff at a recent cybersecurity training.

You may think that just because you have a small firm, cyber criminals don’t have any interest in you, but that’s not true. In fact, you are their portal into bigger pools of information. And your employees could unknowingly be putting you and your clients at risk each time they access sensitive information over unsecure connections.

“No individual or business is safe,” said Daniel Lakier, chief technology officer for SeeGee.

Always exercise common sense and responsibility when using the Internet and apps—don’t click on pop-ups, don’t click on links to track packages you aren’t expecting, and don’t provide personal information to hackers posing as your bank.

Here are some tips to keep your personal information and your firm’s information safe:

  1. Establish strong passwords and update them every 90 days.
  2. Don’t download email attachments you aren’t expecting and beware of emails telling you to download software to fix problems.
  3. Install anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on all devices before connecting to the Internet.
  4. Install and use a firewall on every device.
  5. Have physical access controls for all your devices.
  6. Backup all important data daily.
  7. Keep your software updates for browsers and operating systems current.
  8. Limit access to sensitive and confidential data and don’t ever access it on unsecure connections.
  9. Get technical expertise when needed.

For more information, visit seegee.com. Find more tips on cybersecurity from the FPA Research and Practice Institute™ here.

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

 


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Investors Want the Best of Both Worlds

Investopedia - FPA Research Report  - Version 2.0Robo-advisers are never going to replace you.

Turns out the conversations shouldn’t be about either/or, but rather how to best combine human and robo advice. New research from the Financial Planning Association and Investopedia finds that investors don’t want one over the other; they want both.

“The debate about whether robos or human advisers will win is moot. The future of financial advice is bionic—a powerful combination of both,” David Siegel, CEO of Investopedia was quoted as saying in an article on Investopedia, “Investors Want the Best Tech, a Human Touch with Financial Advice.” 

“As investors get more comfortable with automated investing platforms, they’re starting to demand both the low-cost benefits such platforms provide and the irreplaceably customized and high-touch approach of financial advisers,” Siegel said to Investopedia.

The FPA and Investopedia report found that 70 percent of respondents were very satisfied with their financial adviser or financial planner, while 73 percent of survey respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with their primary automated investing platform. But only 40 percent of respondents felt comfortable relying solely on an automated platform during times of volatility.

“Technology is rapidly changing the way people invest and manage their finances, but clearly investors value the high-touch financial advice afforded by professionals,” 2016 FPA President Pamela Sandy, CFP®, told Investopedia. “Those investors who utilize the benefits of technology and maintain a face-to- face relationship with a qualified financial planner, like a CFP® professional, will be best positioned to meet their financial goals and achieve financial security.”

For more on the study, click here.

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