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Conferences for Women Advisers on the Rise: Attend One

Over the past decade, the number of conferences geared toward the female adviser has grown. I’m proud to say that my own company, Commonwealth Financial Network®, will be holding its first Summit for Women Advisers in June. Further, broker/dealers, industry publications and industry organizations are focusing in on the female adviser to a much greater extent than ever before. So, what does this trend tell you?

For me, it means that many likely share my opinion that women will play a much greater role the industry at some point in the future. But I also believe that conferences for women advisers are on the rise in more ways than one.

Better Than Ever

It’s not just the quantity of conferences that has increased. It’s also the quality. The speakers are engaging, articulate, and, in some cases, well-known. Other presenters are delightful surprises, showcasing the inspiring new talent within the industry. And then there are the audiences! Audience members are well-spoken, asking insightful questions that everyone in the room can learn from.

The feeling of these events is also changing. Women seem to have gotten better at networking, evidenced by the constant exchange of business cards. And they’re branching out. You no longer see women sticking with the three or four people they came to the conference with. Instead, everyone is eager to put out a hand to meet new people.

Finally, those organizations creating these conferences are to be commended for taking a stand to help develop an adviser segment vital to the future of the industry. Organizers of successful events carefully include female advisers in designing events and diligently seek input from all attendees—so a round of enhancements can be made for the next conference.

Still Room for Improvement

Of course, some may say that we don’t need conferences for women advisers since there aren’t conferences just for men (that I know of). So, what’s with the focus on women? Well, the reality is that almost all conferences are dominated by men. Women advisers are still, by far, the minority at 17 percent, with the number of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM practitioners a bit higher at 23 percent. The female contingent has been far from top of mind over the years at industry conferences. If you need proof of that, just look at the standard gifts that advisers receive: the XXL T-shirt or golf tees. Those do work for some—but not for the majority—of women.

Sometimes, women are surprised to see men at a women’s conference. At one conference I attended, a couple of women commented on the number of men there. I had not paid attention and assumed they were from sponsoring organizations. But then I gave it some thought. Why didn’t the sponsor organizations send their female executives? Did those sponsor organizations even have female executives to send? As an industry, we are increasingly interested in ESG (environment, social and governance) investing. How might “governance” be playing out right in front of our eyes? Now, I’m sure some of those male attendees were sincerely interested in meeting the needs of female advisers on their staff. But for me, this experience highlighted the importance of increasing not just the number of female advisers, but also the number of woman-owned advisory firms. I believe conferences focused on women will help get us there.

Worth Your Time

The key takeaway here? If you attended a women’s conference once or twice years ago and weren’t overly impressed, I encourage you to give it another try. The quality of conferences for women has been greatly enhanced. I think you will find attending one an experience that is worth your time and energy. It might even boost your career.

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Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.


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Power and Pitfalls of Digital Marketing

Building a positive professional reputation is a journey. Fortunately, digital media marketing has facilitated this process. The rapid advancement of website development allows you to launch a professional and beautiful website quickly. Social media marketing enables you to push out coordinated messages across many social media platforms—LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. In addition, social media publishing websites like Hootsuite, allow you post on multiple platforms at once. Even more, people are now able to find you easily and quickly. The ubiquitous Google search reveals loads of information, and there’s the rub!

A 2018 Pershing study of investors revealed that one in three investors searched advisers on Facebook and over 50 percent decided to reject the adviser based on their personal Facebook, not their LinkedIn profile or their website. Wow! This is a sobering reminder that everything impacts your success. Even lack of presence affects your brand; not having a presence can be as damaging as having the wrong kind of presence.

I recall coaching a father and son team together. The father was actively resisting a digital presence. His son was unable to persuade him of the importance of having a digital brand. When I explained that having no digital presence was the same as having no business card, no brochure, no sign on the office door and no listing in the phone book, the father immediately became an enthusiastic devotee of digital marketing.

Given the power of the Internet to enhance (or diminish) your professional reputation, guidelines are helpful. I recommend the 3 D’s of digital communication: discreet, diplomatic and dignified.

Deeper Dive into the 3 D’s

Discreet: Discretion was revered at one time. It was considered boorish, rude and self-centered to endlessly disgorge personal details. This is particularly true for older clients and prospects. Discretion will only enhance your brand.

Diplomatic: Children are taught to be considerate and not hurt other people’s feelings. That’s diplomacy in a nutshell. Some clients will not care about your personal social and political views, but others will. Aim to be a Rorschach test. Allow them to interpret you, from their point of view. Everyone likes their viewpoint affirmed.

Dignified: Self-control, moderation and honorable behavior are hallmarks of being dignified. Dignity wraps us in a pleasant, peaceful and respectful aroma. Can you imagine if everything posted on the Internet was dignified? How delightful that would be!

The 3 D’s of communication protect your reputation from the damaging 3 I’s of the Internet, the mundane posts that are inane, the strident that are irritating and the belligerent that are insulting.

Resources for Planners

Since a major tenet of social media marketing is sharing valuable content, there is a great deal of good guidance available from industry experts. Start with the eye-opening Pershing study: “Advisor Value Propositions: How Advisors Showcase Their Value to Investors—and What Investors Secretly Think.”

Then ask peers and business advisers for more resources to build your brand. Five favorite resources recommended by marketing gurus include:

  1. Social media management: Hootesuite and top 6 alternatives for 2019
  2. DIY beautiful websites: WIX or SquareSpace
  3. Logo and marketing design: 99Designs
  4. Freelance marketplace for hiring pros: fiverr
  5. Self-publishing for e-books and print books: Amazon-owned Kindle Direct Publishing (formerly CreateSpace. Amazon merged KDP and CreateSpace in 2019.)

Feel free to check out the articles and tools at Barbara Kay Coaching. Even better, reach out and I’ll help you connect to the right resource for your interests.

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Barbara Kay, LPC, RCC, president of Barbara Kay Coaching, is a business psychology and productivity expert who coaches and speaks nationwide. She specializes in growth, productivity, teams, clients, change, women and leadership. Joining the FPA Coaches Corner in 2019, she now offers free coaching to FPA members.


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The Annual Audit You’re Probably Not Doing—But Should

There is value in doing a business audit once a year. No, you don’t need to go out and hire a CPA for this job. This annual review of the inner workings of your firm is something you can do on your own with the help of a colleague. You want someone you trust to help you talk through a thorough business assessment—someone who will help you stay honest as you audit where your firm needs to put its attention. The outcome will affirm whether your firm is set up for future success—or whether you need to make some changes.

It’s best to do the business audit with some formality. Use a checklist, take notes and write a summary of the three biggest areas of opportunity for the firm. If you’re not willing to take the time to put any of your findings in writing, then don’t bother with the exercise—but I hope you do see the value and take it seriously. If you are willing to put in the effort to do it right, you’ll end up with a written set of goals you can act upon.

Putting the Firm Under Your Scrutiny

Here are a few starter ideas for an audit that will uncover problem areas in your firm as well as opportunities that you may have been missing. The process of creating the list of what to audit is as valuable as doing the audit itself.

  • Do you complete an annual business planning process with SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, vision, strategy and goals?
  • Are human resource documents—such as your handbook, job descriptions and performance reviews—up to date?
  • Are operating policies and procedures in writing and current?
  • Are your technology systems integrated and serving the firm’s needs, or have workarounds proliferated because of outdated technology?
  • Are you proud of your brand and how you hold yourself out to the public?
  • Is your firm growing in profitability?
  • Have you addressed the obvious risks to the firm? For example, have you protected your firm with the right insurance? Are your plans for business continuity and succession practical?
  • Is the firm culture defined and nurtured?

The Audit List, Updated

When you commit to doing an annual audit, you’ll find new issues need to be addressed every year. Here are a few additional robust areas that firms built to last need to keep in mind.

  • Is your firm taking advantage of automation and machine learning to any extent? Robo-advisers are here to stay, and they could become a valuable tool in your toolbox, in terms of efficiency and understanding your clients’ needs.
  • Are your fees 100 percent transparent? Clear compensation is the trend, and clients will continue to expect it.
  • Is the firm growing both revenue and profit? Evaluate what could be holding back growth and whether your firm is facing a downward trend.
  • Are you continuing to attract “sweet spot” clients to your firm? These are the clients who make your work worthwhile, whether it’s the level of assets they bring into your firm or the issues that match your particular expertise.
  • Are your social media approaches yielding results? Algorithms are always changing, and so are social media trends—revamping your social media strategy is a constant need.
  • Is your organizational structure designed with the future in mind?
  • Are you a financial planner or an investment manager? The former is gaining traction in the industry.
  • Do you have the best affiliation model for your firm: IAR, RIA, hybrid, something else?
  • How is your mental acuity and your attitude toward the business? Check in to see if your heart is still in this and what would need to change to keep it that way.

Sometimes I find that advisers view their practice as good enough. And while that assessment may get you through today, it certainly won’t carry your business into the future. But then, what do you want for the future? The process of going through the audit and reviewing the state of your business should help you find the answer.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.