Economy

How do you Compete with Robo-Advisors?

With today’s increased focus on digital marketing and automation technology, the continual push for better access to goods and services through the Internet is inevitable. Equally understandable is the growing role of robo-advisors in the financial services arena.

The term robo-advisor brings to mind the futuristic scenes from RoboCop and creates an ominous worry for traditional advisors. How real is the worry, and what can you, as a seasoned advisor, do about it? Plenty!

First, start by accepting and understanding the goodness associated with robo-advisors; chiefly, that more people now have access to the world of investing. Many of the robo-advisor customers are young professionals just getting starte who are attracted to the lower entry minimums, the 24/7 data access, low fee schedule, and the ease of investing. Note that an increased knowledge base now means more savvy investors in the future who could conceivably go beyond this starting point and reach out to financial plan advisors in the future.

Next, realize that you cannot compete on price with these online investment management sites. The fees and the overhead costs are lower. Period.

Instead, you need to recognize the technology aspects you can address, while also differentiating your strengths from the algorithmic portfolio models commonly used by a robo-advisor.

This means you cannot ignore digital marketing! The Internet is not the problem, just as robo-advisors are not the problem. In fact, there really isn’t a problem, merely opportunities.

Your website, blogs, social media presence, and email newsletters must be an integral part of your marketing strategy. Nearly everyone, from Millennials to Gen X to Baby Boomers, wants and expects a solid and rich online presence. If you don’t have one, you’re considered old school (not in a good way) and out of touch, and your abilities are questioned.

How can you be knowledgeable and up-to-date about the latest trends and investment strategies if your digital marketing is suspect? You cannot.

Just as importantly, that digital marketing must say something about your value-add. Pretty pictures and graphics may attract attention, but you won’t keep a customer’s interest for long if you don’t provide a give and showcase your industry knowledge.

Clients and prospects want to know why they should work with you now and in the future. What do you offer that they can’t get from a robo-advisor? What is it about your skills and background that make you special?

Your day-in and day-out relationships matter as well. Yes, an online presence is vital, but do you also take the time to get to know your customers? Do you understand their wants and needs? Do you know what keeps them up at night?

The bottom line is: How can you help your clients and prospects? What can you do for them that no other advisor, and certainly no robo-advisor, can provide?

Craft your value-add, your mission statement, and your give carefully and with your customer in mind, and you will put yourself way beyond the commonplace and futuristic competition.

Tweeting Advisors Anticipate A U.S. Default

With the prospect of a U.S. default looming just a few weeks from now, would you guess that financial advisors on Twitter might be tweeting their own commentary? You would be right.

Of course, the media are seeking the perspectives of advisors and filing their own reports. But what AdvisorTweets.com celebrates is the visibility of advisors using self-publishing platforms (Twitter, blogs, podcasts, videos, etc.) to deliver their own analyses, as long, short and caustic as necessary. They’re on the line to anticipate and explain the impact of a U.S. default on their clients’ portfolios.

This is a high information-gathering and sharing time as shown by the high volume of tweets this week and especially today.

Here’s just a sampling of some of the tweets spotted in the AdvisorTweets stream and by using the site’s search engine.


Housing’s Down, Clients Are Down, Housing-Related Tweets Are Up

Homeowners’ disappointment in the declining value of their homes, their dreams deferred by their inability to move, their general sense of feeling poorer—of course, financial advisors are on the receiving end of the impact of the housing depression on their clients’ overall financial picture.

Tweets about national and local housing values, affordability, foreclosures and taxation are a constant on AdvisorTweets. I haven’t mentioned them before for fear of giving in to my own bias. My home has been on the market since January 2010, and my sister the Realtor says I’ve become “too sensitive” about it!

Yesterday’s announcement by the S&P/Case-Shiller National Index that home prices have sunk to 2002 levels gives a fresh news peg to this roundup of May tweets from advisors introducing their followers to housing-related content that goes beyond the standard media coverage. The advisors’ awareness of the content and their annotated sharing of it help differentiate their brands and what they’re focused on for their clients’ benefit.

The first tweet was written by Heidi N. Moore, correspondent for NPR’s Marketplace Radio, and re-tweeted by advisor @behaviorgap.  It  suggests the difficult discussions that must be taking place as advisors re-set their clients’ expectations of their homes as part of their investment portfolios.

The following tweets are from @researchpuzzler, @ChrisGrandecom, @BeckerAdvisory and @KirkKinder. As a reminder, if you’re looking for tweets on a specific housing-related topic, use the AdvisorTweets’ search engine.

Somebody Grab The Nachos–Advisors Anticipate Fed Press Conference

We are slightly more than 24 hours away from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s first press conference–what Business Insider is calling the “super bowl of Fed events.” So, I thought we’d join in the grand tradition of anticipated super bowl coverage by news outlets large and small and provide the following representative round-up of recent financial advisor tweets about Bernanke, QE2 and the Fed.

Consensus? No, sir. It’s not possible to summarize a “financial advisor view.” But that’s the point—through their use of social media, financial advisors’ individual voices and shading on financial news is now directly accessible. Media publications will seek and report on a handful of advisors’ comments; social media gives each advisor a platform.

Check back on AdvisorTweets.com tomorrow afternoon. We don’t want to over-promise as only the most independent of advisors will be tweeting in real-time. But if the interest is anything like the interest in that other super bowl, the tweets could be both insightful and entertaining.

The tweets shown below from @dhglen @millertabak @donmartincfp @jessefelder @researchpuzzler and @taylorfrigon are screenshots–click on them to go to the content cited or the Twitter account.

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Advisors Weigh In On Currency Wars, The Dollar, QE2

The strength of the U.S. dollar, currency wars and quantitative easing (QE and QE2) are topics that have broad appeal to advisors whose tweets appear on AdvisorTweets.com. A search for any of the terms will produce a rich list of content recommendations from several advisors.

Here’s a sampling of recent tweets that advisors have sent with links to content representing their own views:

  1. David Glen
    dhglen Random Glenings: Currency wars are necessary if all else fails – Te… http://t.co/VuRE41C

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  1. David Glen
    dhglen Random Glenings: More On Currency Wars http://t.co/ig7oWnf

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  1. Wade Slome
    WadeSlome Dealing Currency Drug to Export Addicts: Quest for devaluation nirvana is a waste. #IMF #QE2 #currency $WMT http://wp.me/pxctV-PL

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Bond Bubble? Financial Advisors Weigh In

There is a national debate underway about whether the country is staring down a bond bubble–so of course Twitter-using financial advisors are weighing in with their thoughts…and links to expanded thoughts on their blogs and elsewhere.

Don’t expect a consensus. As with every other topic, Twitter is a gateway to a smorgasbord of views. Below is a sampling of bubble-related tweets that have appeared lately on AdvisorTweets.com. For more, use AdvisorTweets’ Search function. For some (near-term) historical perspective, search for “bonds” and scroll to the bottom of the results page. You’ll see what advisors were tweeting back in April.

  1. David Glen
    dhglen Random Glenings: Why Record Stock Correlations Are An Adverse Feedb… http://goo.gl/b/DmoP

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  1. CurtisASmith,CFP®
    CurtisASmithCFP Three key principles about bond investing risk: “Fixed Income Risk in Your Portfolio.” Making Cents newsletter post. http://su.pr/1YVIPh

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  1. tom brakke
    researchpuzzler the last of these causes of bond ETF price v. NAV is worth exploring in depth to get an edge http://bit.ly/cxQLJU $$

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  1. Brett Anderson
    BrettDAnderson Investors are buying high and selling low…but this time with bonds. Will this end badly? http://brettdanderson.wordpress.com/

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  1. Pasquale J Sacchetta
    PJSacchetta @rwohlner @CurtisASmithCFP Does anyone still believe bonds are the safe alternative? We’re in for some interesting times… #bond #risk

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Join us when we moderate an Advisor Perspectives Webinar, “Engage The Media Using Social Media” at 4 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Central Wednesday, September 15. For more information including our national and local media and advisor panelists, see
our blog post or register here.

What Do Fed Economists Know About The Disruptiveness Of Social Media?

What is the value of “the economic blogging crowd,” including Matt Yglesias, John Stossel, Robert Samuelson, Robert Reich, Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong?

There’s a bit of a debate online triggered by an essay written by Kartik Athreya, a senior research economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The headline of the 4-page piece “Economics Is Hard. Don’t Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise” summarizes both the essay’s premise and point of view.

Ignore“Deficits, short-term interest rate targets, sovereign debt are all chewed over with a level of self-assuredness that only someone who doesn’t know more could,” writes Athreya, in finding fault with “the sophomoric musings of auto-didact or non-didact bloggers.”

By contrast, Athreya says, “When a professional research economist thinks or talks about social insurance, unemployment, taxes, budget deficits, or sovereign debt among things, they almost always have a very precisely articulated model that has been vetted repeatedly for internal coherence.” He finds it bizarre that “untrained speculations” are being passed off as insights.

Athreya says he wrote the essay to alert others “to the giant disconnect that exists between the nuanced discussion that occurs between research economists and the noise (some of it from economists!) that one sees in the Web or the op-ed pages of even the very best newspapers of the U.S. As a result, my hope is that the broader public will ask for a slightly higher bar when it comes to economics rather than self-selecting into blogs that merely confirm half-baked views that might have been acquired from somewhere.”

I’ve been thinking about this off and on since yesterday, when I saw an @MKTWealth tweet that included a “The Fed Disses Financial Bloggers” link to a HousingDoom.com article whose actual headline was “Fed Economists Now Feeling Threatened By Bloggers?” After reading the commentary and the comments, I proceeded to read the essay. Athreya has presence on the Richmond Fed site, including a video and links to his work but I didn’t find the June 17 essay there. HousingDoom linked to the Scribd site, which is where the Zerohedge blog uploaded it yesterday. If memory serves, there were just a few hundred views yesterday and now 3,372 as I write this mid-day Tuesday.

I provided all of the detail in the preceding paragraph as an illustration of how information spreads nowadays.

This episode fascinates us from two perspectives.

Economic Bloggers Influence Advisors

Economic blogs are regularly read by financial advisors whose tweets are published on AdvisorTweets.com. In aggregating what advisors are saying about the markets, the economy, personal debt levels, small business planning, we care about advisors’ role in information dissemination—who’s influencing them, as suggested by the links they exchange—and how they in turn may be influencing their retail clients. Advisors forward links to economic blogs.

Does Athreya have a valid point? Is there too much reliance on untrained commentators? Here are a few links to some evaluations of the argument. Naturally, we welcome your comments below.

But Polarizing Isn’t How It’s Done Anymore

As a digital marketing consultant steeped in helping financial services brands find their way in social media, I find it such a surprising communication. Across the Web today, all kinds of private sector and public sector entities are coming to terms with the concept that they are not in control—users/consumers are. As Athreya is now experiencing, someone can get at his essay, upload it to a content-sharing site, attribute his views to the Fed and widen the discussion beyond his essay to include commentary on his professional background. He may have started the conversation, but it’s gotten away from his original intent.

Athreya’s approach in the essay is so surprising because it’s polarizing and that really doesn’t work anymore. Others are finding a way to meet in the middle. It was a few years ago when automakers figured out that there was no winning with the online car reviewers and bloggers until they engaged them. Critical mommy bloggers are being recruited by consumer product companies to help improve their products and their promotions.

Is it possible that a Fed economist hasn’t heard of the power of the community, the groundswell, socialnomics even? Is criticizing the “untrained” for what they don’t know really the only play here?
Economics is Hard

Financial Advisors Darken About Economy’s Prospects

The mood darkened some on AdvisorTweets.com today as a few financial advisors used Twitter to pass on some worrisome tweets about the economy.

From @behaviorgap:
Debt/GDP = 350%, the past is telling us that this could be entirely more profound than the grt depression. at 21:45 http://bit.ly/NBPSw

From @harleyghunter The “Real” Economy Is Dying: Q4 “Going to Be a Bloodbath,” Whalen Says: Tech Ticker, Yahoo! Finance – http://shar.es/14J2P

From @jessefelder