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8 Cybersecurity Best Practices

White Paper 3.jpgWhen it comes to cybersecurity breaches, there’s good news and bad news, according to the latest whitepaper from the FPA Research and Practice Institute™ and TD Ameritrade Institutional.

The good news is only 4 percent of firms surveyed experienced a security breach. The bad news is that while larger firms tend to experience more data breaches, smaller firms are increasingly being targeted.

But the whitepaper titled “Cybersecurity: Current Threats and Risk Management” offers readers a list of things to do to mitigate risk.

1.) Create a map of what should happen in the event of a security breach so that your entire team is on the same page.

2.) Update all email systems to limit potential for phishing attempts.

3.) Frequently scan for potential vulnerabilities. Scan more often than just quarterly or even annually to ensure your company and client data isn’t compromised. It may cost more now, but it will pay off in the long term.

4.) Brush up on your basics. Make sure you and your team both know what things make your data vulnerable and ensure that you’re not doing them. Read our last blog on for some tips on how to keep your firm safe.

5.) Ensure all your and your employees’ mobile devices have safeguards to protect any data that can be accessed on them. Ensure that sensitive data is erased form these devices should an employee leave or get a new device.

6.) Ensure only company-issued hardware and devices are accessing your company network.

7.) Identify what data must be encrypted and properly encrypt any sensitive data that is sent via email.

8.) Do not use personal email accounts for business. Create and enforce a policy that prohibits or limits employees from using personal email for work-related correspondence.

Download the full whitepaper here. Find the full cybersecurity research report, along with the other whitepapers on the topic here.

 


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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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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.

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


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Don’t Have a Bad Online Presence

If you don’t have a website or LinkedIn profile—or you have them but they’re not very strong—then you’re doing the equivalent of inviting prospects and clients to a meeting in a messy office space.

Consumers are hesitant to make even minor purchases (shoes, household appliances, etc.) from companies with a bad online presence because they view those companies skeptically and can’t build initial trust. How do you think this same scenario plays out with someone looking to entrust someone with their life savings?

There are many various studies you can find regarding an investor’s purchase journey and the importance of having a strong website and LinkedIn profile. A strong online presence allows potential clients the opportunity to: (A) get to know you a bit before contacting you; (B) build a level of trust regarding your expertise; and (C) provide them a mechanism for contacting you. But you don’t need to read those studies—common sense should tell you that if you’re going to trust someone with something as important as financial planning, you want to know the financial planner is legitimate. Not existing online or having a weak online presence sends the prospect a signal that you might not be legitimate. Would you trust a professional service provider if you couldn’t find any information about them online?

Taking simple steps like ensuring your web content is up-to-date and reflects your value proposition can help people decide to take the next step in their journey toward finding a financial planner. 

Jeremy Jackson

 

Jeremy Jackson
Owner/founder
SKY Marketing Consultants
Kirkwood, MO

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Financial Planning Association members can get 50 percent of SKY Marketing Consultants‘ digital audit services (a discount of up to $300). For more information visit MyFPA

Look for the Journal of Financial Planning’s July issue for more marketing tips for financial planners. 


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Are Your Blog Posts Engaging Your Audience?

Our financial adviser clients often pose this question: how do we attract readers to our blog and keep them engaged?

The sad truth is that not everyone who comes across a blog post is going to read it. Consequently, our suggestion is not to worry whether users read the whole article. The key goal is not to attract the masses, rather ensure maximum satisfaction for those who come to read your blog.

The advice we consistently give to our clients is to first and foremost attain an in-depth understanding of the audience they seek to connect with. Creating the right persona is key to running a successful blog and understanding who your readers are and what matters to them—their worries, needs and pains. Consequently, the focus must be on creating content that offers them tips, guidelines and actionable ideas that can be implemented to address their needs. However, the overall aim is to appeal not only to your aficionados but also to those who may never contact you but enjoy reading and sharing your expert advice.

An Emotional Investment

Our recommendation is to focus every blog post on how to reduce and perhaps even help stop your readers’ pains. When your content does that you have got your audience engaged. Ultimately, your audience’s engagement is a direct function of the emotional investment they make in reading your posts. You can foster their commitment by rewarding them with actionable ideas and suggestions they can put to good use over time.

Because the goal of having a blog is also to build a large audience, how then can an adviser attract and engage new readers? The fundamental idea that must be grasped here is that getting readers to read your entire blog post is not your first priority.

Experiencing Tactical Support

Every blog post ought to contain a central, compelling point. What matters is to give readers an experience of having come to a blog that consistently offers them the “tactical support” they need to address their issues. This in turn will compel them to share your insights with their family and friends and, ultimately, become your brand evangelists.

Your blog posts should be written in your own voice. It helps to create your specific style to which readers will grow accustomed and easily recognize—even if they do not read your post in its entirety.

Here are some tips and ideas that may help with your blogging activities:

  • Grab Their Attention: The headline of your blog is the most powerful tool to get your readers’ attention. A significant number of people are attracted by headlines and are more likely to read them rather than your actual post. Seek to write headlines that are clear and easy to understand and avoid technical language
  • Use the Inverted Pyramid Style: This style, also called front-loading, enables you to incorporate into the opening paragraph the vital details addressed in your post. It is a very effective blog writing technique, as web audiences tend to peter out after skimming the first paragraph.
  • Easy Does It: Make it easy for your readers to understand and consume your messages. Use headings to help them decide if they want to read or scroll on to the next paragraph. Write in a crisp clear language and avoid dense paragraphs, as well as industry jargon. Well-formatted posts prevent readers from missing your key insights and ideas.
  • Use Examples: Include in your blog real life examples. Use personal stories and anecdotes to facilitate understanding of complex concepts, ideas and strategies. Make sure to catch your readers’ attention by clearly stating what your product, idea or strategy does and give examples of how it has helped others.
  • A Strong Conclusion: Failing to appropriately conclude your article will offer your readers very little incentive for engagement. The last paragraph of your post should feature a recap of the key takeaways and a call to action to solicit comments and/or inquiries.
  • Be Social—as in Social Media: Make sure your blog features social media buttons that will enable your audience to share the posts they like. Also, make it easy for them to leave comments and/or pose questions by embedding in your blog a commenting capability, such as Disqus or IntenseDebate

Whether or not you are a blogger comments and questions are always welcome.

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

 

Editor’s Note: Other Financial Planning Association content that may be of interest to you include:

A non-FPA resource that is always helpful when it comes to writing tips is Susan B. Weiner’s Investment Writing site


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3 Steps for Writing Stellar Web Copy

ContentIf you’re like the majority of financial advisers looking to gain the competitive edge, chances are you’re looking at revamping your online presence. But before you go crazy about new site designs and layouts, step back and look at the one foundational piece of your digital footprint: messaging and content.

Advisers typically think about what they want to say instead of what their clients and prospects want to hear when it relates to filling their site with content. They push their message out to the world with their metaphorical megaphones without considering how to draw people in like a magnet to share details.

So what can advisers do? The answer starts with writing stellar web copy. More than 90 percent of the visitors you drive to your website right now disappear and stay anonymous forever. Think about that. Think about all those potential leads; all that interest swimming under the radar. And, all that happening because your content isn’t moving your visitors to take action.

Take the next week, schedule some time on your calendar, and meet with your team to brainstorm ideas and organize your strategy before committing to a particular direction for your copy. Here’s where to begin:

1.) Describe Your Ideal Client
A compelling writer always begins by getting to know the audience inside and out. This can seem like a lot of work, and it is, but the great thing about getting to know your readers is you can use the information again and again.
Write down detailed information:

  • Target audience’s demographics (age, gender, location, income, etc.).
  • Your audience’s primary concern (with regard to the services you offer) right now; what keeps them up at 3 a.m.?
  • Why this information should matter to them.
  • Your audience’s communication preferences.
  • Do they respond better to long pages or short ones? Video, audio or text?
  • How do they spend their time?

If you can’t answer some of these questions, ask. Whether you survey your newsletter readers, ask on social media or call a few of your best clients and get their perspective, you don’t want to guess or predict the answers. The information you collect will help shape your copy. If you’d like an exercise to help jumpstart your brain when thinking about your ideal clients, click here and enter the code “marketing” to download our Digital Marketing Messaging Exercise.

2.) Find Your Focus
Every page must have one main focus, or objective. That’s not to say you can’t expect your copy to do multiple things—for instance, it’s common to hope the home page will welcome new visitors, encourage call-to-actions and lure people into reading your blog. But, it must be written with a singular goal.
A scattered voice leaves your readers feeling unsure what to do next, while a confident voice directs them from point A to point B elegantly. Your goal should determine every choice you make about messaging. In this way, you can help visitors follow a straightforward path to the action you want them to take.

3.) Organize Your Thoughts
Once you know who your ideal audience is in great detail, and you know why you’re writing a particular page, you’re almost ready to put pen to paper. But there’s still one more thing advisers and their team must do that I find so many skipping: forethought. Think about what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it and what the overall message will be. Jot down some notes, pontificate a few headlines and opening paragraph and reflect on how you (if you were in your clients’ shoes) would respond to the direction of the copy.

  • Does the messaging answer the specific needs and/or objections of your ideal clients?
  • Does the copy engage the reader, or does it try to force information down their throats?
  • Are you writing ABOUT yourself and your services, or are you writing FOR your target audience?
  • Have you included keywords for SEO? Which ones, where and why?

This may seem elementary at first, but I assure you, after getting everything organized and laid out, your copy will pretty much write itself. The entire writing process will flow more easily without the typical frustration you may have experienced in the past. And, perhaps most importantly, because you have put some thought into your approach, the copy is also much more likely to get better results than if you simply put fingers to keyboard and begin rattling off with no direction.

When you know your audience well, your writing will connect with them in an entirely different way. They’ll be able to trust you—and thus follow your recommendations—because you’ve demonstrated you understand them. And in the current noisy world we live in, giving your audience the feeling of being understood might be the differentiator you need to connect, engage and keep those who mean the most to your business.

Ron_CarsonRon Carson
Founder and CEO
Carson Wealth Management Group
Omaha, NE