The Morningstar Investment Conference opened in Chicago today with PIMCO’s Bill Gross as the keynote. My apologies if the @AdvisorTweets account got too chatty. Gross is a quotable fellow with more than a few cautionaries about the economy and U.S. investing opportunities.
Here are a few additional notes from the conference’s first day. Use the #MIC2011 hashtag on Twitter to follow Thursday and Friday tweets from the conference.
A Precious Metals Play?
I had a moment of distraction while listening to Gross detail the burden of the mounting federal debt, negative real interest rates and financial repression. He has been talking about financial repression since May. Has anybody registered that domain, I wondered and then had to chuckle when I checked it out: Financialrepression.com redirects to SilverStockReports.com.
Non-U.S. Bonds, I Mean
As he has been for months, Gross was categorically negative on U.S. bonds. Toward the end of his remarks, he even named a few stocks that paid attractive dividend yields. Later in the Exhibit Hall, a friend of WiredAdvisor’s Steph Sammons showed the program Gross signed for him immediately after the keynote.
Steph twitpic-ed it and as you can see, old habits die hard—he’s still signing “Buy bonds.”
Investors Get The Best Treatment
In the session that followed, Morningstar’s Don Phillips said U.S. investors are treated better than any other investors in the world. He was referring to transparency and oversight and fees. But I was struck by the irony of that statement coming on the heels of Gross saying that U.S. Treasury investors were about “to get cooked like frogs” and their pockets picked.
“We’re telling investors to go overseas with their bond funds, their safe money,” noted CNBC’s Tyler Mathisen.
Meanwhile, What Was This All About?
While advisors were meeting in Chicago for the investment conference, the White House was hosting a Personal Finance Online Summit that got almost no advance publicity. Below here’s a look at the #PFOS tweets that were sent from what looks to have been an intimate get-together that included an update from Elizabeth Warren of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and even featured a drop-by by the President.
The tweeting gives us an idea of some of the online writers invited—there were representatives from Minyanville, Business Insider, Polycapitalist, Investor’s Business Daily and Consumer Reports. These are personal finance writers?
Earlier in the week, I wrote about the effect of social media participation in elevating financial advisors’ visibility online. To add a dose of reality from people who navigate personal finance challenges with their clients daily, a subsequent summit might consider a seat at the table for one of the blogging (and tweeting) advisors followed by AdvisorTweets.com.
On Monday, I announced that AdvisorTweets.com and its assets will be offered for sale via auction next week. For details, please see the AdvisorTweets blog post.
Next Tuesday I intend to take a step in a direction that I will hope will be positive for users of AdvisorTweets.com. I plan to offer the site, related domains (AdviserTweets.com and CFPTweets.com) and all assets for sale by auction. Update and clarification: The site will be offered as a private sale. This will enable an interested bidder to submit its best offer once and in private. The sale price will never be disclosed nor will the identities of other bidders.
I started AdvisorTweets two years ago in my enthusiasm for finding advisors on Twitter and seeing the value in what many were saying. Included among the millions of Twitter accounts were accounts that belonged to independent U.S.-based financial advisors using Twitter to share perspectives on the economy, investing and personal finance and, increasingly, to network with one another.
The availability of Twitter and other social media self-publishing tools came along just at the right time for these advisors eager to build their personal brands and share what they know in the wake of the market and economic collapse of 2008-2009. But because they were independent, the tweeting advisors lacked any home office or marketing support to amplify their work.
At first, I added each advisor account I found to a list that I was keeping on my desktop (this predated Twitter lists). Then I published the list on my Rock The Boat Marketing site. But I thought that I’d love to have somewhere to go to see and compare what advisors were actually tweeting—and I thought that others might value that, too.
AdvisorTweets.com was built not just as a labor of love but as a proof of concept. The site followed just 70-some advisors using Twitter for business when it launched in September 2009. Other independents followed, and name after name was carefully added to get to today’s database count of 570. The AdvisorTweetsOnDeck Twitter list tracks an additional 126 accounts.
Advisor Visibility Online
At the highest level, AdvisorTweets has been about advisors’ visibility online. Advisors’ tweets have provided a window to the early adopting advisors’ use of Twitter to comment and network—and to also call attention to their other social activities including blog posts, Facebook pages, YouTube videos, LinkedIn discussions, etc.
Today, advisors’ gravitation to social media as a low (hard) cost and high engagement marketing and communications channel seems undeniable, even by the regulators.
Policies and procedures are being developed along with enabling technologies being tested and implemented to comply with FINRA and SEC guidance. I share others’ views that the floodgates may soon fling wide open. Recent news about Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Raymond James’ intentions alone may mean that the hundreds of business-purpose advisor Twitter accounts now tracked by AdvisorTweets could shoot into the thousands.
That is awesome. But I’m not the one to take this any further. This work has been an unmitigated pleasure, a career highlight. However, my involvement is without context—I run a digital marketing strategy consulting firm for asset management firms. I offer no services to financial advisors. Surely some other entity, possibly entrenched in the advisory world, could do a more effective job building and marketing an AdvisorTweets 2.0, which is overdue.
Casting A Wide Net
How would I extract myself? I pondered this a long time, I approached a handful of firms and I’ve finally concluded that an auction is the way to go.
I’ll admit to being a little uneasy about ceding the go-forward decision to the marketplace. The worst conceivable scenario, to me, would be to have to unplug AdvisorTweets.com altogether. My hope is that casting a wide net, such as what’s possible with an auction site, will identify someone or company that finds value in what’s here and can envision a direction that will be even more useful and robust.
Who might AdvisorTweets appeal to? I can think of four potential buyer types:
- A media company that seeks to support an online community where advisors are front and center. A publisher might combine AdvisorTweets as a subdomain or subdirectory to its own site as a means of offering a social media awareness opportunity to advertisers.
- A business or organization that seeks to tap into the industry’s high interest in social media by aligning itself with a social ecosystem that includes not just financial advisors but also financial services service providers. See HardAssetsInvestor.com for an example of how Van Eck uses a standalone Website to support investors’ interest in hard assets.
- An individual brokerage or planning firm seeking to use the AdvisorTweets domain and publishing platform to promote its own advisors’ tweets.
- An Internet-focused business seeking to earn off the site with the addition of sponsorships or text and display ads.
I expect the auction to start on Tuesday, June 14, and end on Tuesday, June 21.
If you have questions about AdvisorTweets between now and Tuesday, please send an email to email@example.com, which comes directly to me. Once the site is listed for auction, no communications can take place outside the auction site.
This isn’t the last you’ll be hearing from me at AdvisorTweets. The Morningstar Investment Conference is being held in Chicago this week (#MIC2011), and I’ll be tweeting (maybe even squeezing out a blog post) from there, courtesy of one of my early Twitter buddies Leslie Banks. I’ll post the link to the auction listing when it’s live. And once AdvisorTweets’ future is known, I’ll be back with the outcome.
It’s with a lump in my throat that I publish this post. My thanks to all of you, financial advisors and others in the ecosystem, for the support you’ve shown AdvisorTweets and for the friendship you’ve extended to me.
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.
When there’s a loss, it can be helpful to mourn with a community. Advisors took to Twitter to express their sorrow and condolences to CNBC and the Haines family. It’s clear from these representative tweets that Haines was a touchstone in a broad community for these mostly independent advisors to whom Haines was a work buddy. I’ll miss Haines, too.
Over the last several months, we’ve seen surveys and reports on the use of social media by financial advisors, by asset managers and by investors. Compliance officers are now weighing in via a report today from Smarsh.
Smarsh released the 2011 Electronic Communications Compliance Survey at FINRA’s 2011 Annual Conference underway in Washington, D.C. The findings are based on 223 individuals with compliance-related responsibilities at broker-dealers (53% of respondents), registered investment advisory (RIAs) firms (20%) and other regulated firms.
You can submit your contact information and download a free copy of the report but here’s the overall conclusion: “Respondents demonstrated an accurate understanding of their compliance obligations related to electronic communications; however, a gap existed between what they need to do to comply with these regulatory requirements and what they are actually doing.”
Social media is a compliance challenge for an array of reasons that are likely familiar to readers of this blog (e.g., the nature and volume of the content updates, the interaction that occurs, the requirement to archive communications, etc.).
Mobile represents a challenge to the extent that messages are sent using smartphones and tablets versus company-issued (and locked-down) computers. One interesting finding is that these firms, most of which I’d assume to be Microsoft enterprises, express less confidence in their command of Windows mobile devices than they do of Google Android and Apple’s mobile operating system (iPhone and iPad) devices.
But the high-level finding is that more than four out of 10 compliance officers say they have zero or minimal confidence in their ability to produce social media or mobile message data if they were specifically requested in an audit or e-discovery event, as this graph from the Smarsh report shows.
Smarsh, of course, is a provider of solutions and these survey findings no doubt help their marketing objectives. I cite the survey here for the insights provided for those of us interested in the pace of regulated investment firms’ adoption of social media.
This documented widespread vulnerability and discomfort on the part of the compliance function suggests more slow-going and outright opposition, at least until more systems and processes are in place.
It’s been an especially prolific week for the social media-using financial advisors whose tweets we follow on AdvisorTweets.com, as judged by the number of blog posts they’ve been promoting via their tweets. Using Twitter to create awareness of a blog or a Website and drive traffic to it is a legitimate tactic that many advisors are quite successful with.
The range of topics and approaches of the 15 blog posts being tweeted about below defy categorization so I’ll get out of the way while these tweets take an encore.
Shown are tweets from @COFeeOnlyCFP, @RickKahler, @Moneyover55, @SetuMazumdar, @ResearchPuzzler, @smjuetten, @ChuckRylant, @ThomasPMarshall, @NathanGehring, @JanetBarrCFS, @TheETFBully, @WallStSteward, @family_finances, @smartinvestorcc and @CaleInTheKeys.