Financial Advisor Compliance: FAQs and the RIA Stands For You Campaign

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As you consider your digital strategy and in particular, financial advisor compliance strategies that take advantage of the Charles Schwab RIA Stands For You Campaign, there are a number of questions you may have related to regulatory compliance. The following responses were provided by, Mitch Avnet. Mitch is a Revenue Architects supporting partner and leading industry compliance expert who’s background includes experience with Lincoln Financial Group, Wachovia and PNC Financial.  Need assistance in your compliance program?  Contact us!

Below are some FAQs for compliance and Mitch Avnet’s replies:

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Tweets from the #RIAS4U Event

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The Twitter Buzz was so great for #SchwabIMPACT and #RIAS4U during Schwab’s annual IMPACT conference this year, it reached Twitter’s trending list!!  The Keynot by EVP Bernard J. Clark, unveiling enhancements to “RIA Stands for You” campaign propelled the buzz.

Below are a selection of tweets as well as some highlights of a related webcast next week.

In next week’s webcast John Stone will be discussing five strategies for using the #RIAS4U campaign:
  • Website Hub – Use RIAS4U to enhance your website content and value
  • RIAS4U Branding – Gain from program’s “halo effect” by using the brand and content
  • 1:1 Targeting – Use new tools to filter and focus on 1:1 engagement using RIAS4U
  • Social Media – Expand your reach and influence with social media engagement
  • Campaigns – Combine RIAS4U elements into your custom campaigns.


RIA Stands for You: Tips to Get Started! –

Are RIA Firms Using CRM Effectively? –

Bernie Clark at Schwab Impact: RIAs’ Competitors ‘Want What You Have’ –

Check out our #RiAS4Y blog post and download our Revenue Performance Healthcheck –

Check out all of the news on the Schwab Talk blog –

Check out #RIAS4U at Schwab IMPACT!

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If you are attending this week’s at Schwab’s Impact, be sure to learn more about the RiA Stands For You Program.

Use Digital to Do What You Do Best!

The proliferation of web access anytime, on demand, using personal computers and smart mobile devices, is introducing new opportunities for Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) to do what they do best – deepen and enhance relationships.

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Successful Email Marketing – Crafting Your Message

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Emails are one of the most often used communication methods used by businesses to reach clients and potential leads, and if used correctly email marketing can be among the most effective methods as well to grow your business. In a climate where communication is becoming increasingly digital, crafting effective email marketing messaging is vital for any financial advisor. Successful emails that clearly communicate their message enhance customer experience and generate business, while unsuccessful emails lead to may lead to confusion or lack of action. The following are a few simple steps that can be taken to maximize the effectiveness and clarity of your email marketing message while also optimizing the user experience of the email’s entire audience: the foundation of any successful email marketing campaign.

Like all good writing, email is most successful when the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the message is taken into consideration. For the purposes of user experience, the what, where, and how are the three most important of these categories.

“WHAT are you saying to me?”

  • First impressions matter- make the most of your subject line: Is it recognizable, trustworthy, and relevant? What is the relationship between the receiver and the sender (whether an individual or company)?
  • Use client friendly language
  • Make a clear point, and provide enough context for understanding. Avoid ambiguity and a lack of call to action
  • Make the email interesting and not too dense- use imagery, data, and personalization if possible
  • Create a hierarchy in content, message, and visual elements- prioritize the important information and eliminate extraneous details. Differentiate colors, fonts, and placements.

“HOW do you want me to take action?”

  • Take advantage of opportunities to engage your audience- linked imagery, video, buttons, charts, colored backgrounds, forward and share links
  • Make the call to action obvious- Use active language. This comes back to the clarity of the message and the hierarchy of the content, message, and visual elements.
  • Leave no question as to what the reader (your client) is being asked to do.

“WHERE am I reading your email?”

  • Bigger is better- Be aware of recommended minimum font sizes (body 14 px, header 22 px). Body copy of less than 13 px will often be re-sized.
  • Create touch targets- Include tappable touch targets and make them easy to activate with a 44 px x 44 px minimum. Try both text and image buttons.
  • Streamline- Simplify content and stay within a single column template. Confine content to a skinny 320 px X 540 px frame. Make sure to prioritize the “What” and “How” aspects of the email, with short, direct content and a clear call to action.
  • Ditch the automatically-created mobile version- it only represents an extra click for the reader. Instead, design with a “mobile first” mentality.

Customer relationships are so important and client experience should be the basis of the design of any email. Making sure the what, how, and where of the email from the audience’s perspective is analyzed and accounted for will help ensure that you compose a successful marketing message.

Schwab Presentation on Social Media and Digital Marketing

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We had a great day working with Charles Schwab Advisor Services and presenting to their financial advisor clients. We were in Philadelphia this time – my old home town during IBM days. About 40 advisors participated in this program to learn about financial advisor marketing topics and the discussion was active and engaging. If you attended the session, please reach out with your feedback.

Social Media Presence – How RIA’s Can Spread the Word

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Social media is not just for reconnecting with former classmates and sharing photos from this year’s family reunion; websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and now Google+ can be valuable professional tools when you develop your social media presence with certain relationship building goals in mind. Taking advantage of the possible connections that social media provides and working to develop relationships with potential clients, peers, and competitors can benefit your business in ways that were not possible prior to the age of social media.

Rather than using social media for direct marketing, which is more likely to turn people away, it is most effective to indirectly promote your firm by developing your own individual online presence. Regularly publishing, posting and tweeting on related issues shows that you are active and engaged within the business community, which will in turn reflects positively on your firm.  The two dimensions for measuring social media impact are reach and influence. With regular, if not frequent, substantive updates and a large network of followers will help drive the velocity of your practice and give you the benefit of positive name recognition.

One of the most effective ways that you can take advantage of social media’s networking opportunities is to collaborate with both peers and competitors in order to learn from their business practices. Join an industry group on LinkedIn and start a discussion to share tips on anything from best investment practices to which software to use. Collaborating with peers online also allows you to gain a better understanding of what they deal with, which will help you to be better prepared to work with them offline.

You can also use social media to your advantage by developing closer personal relationships with clients. Friend clients on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. You will develop a better understanding of your client as a person, which will allow you to plan better for them and therefore increase their overall satisfaction. In browsing their profile you might discover a mutual interest that could influence investment plans, and responding to their posts will show that you are engaged and attentive. Conversely, your clients will get to know you better by following your updates, allowing for a more personal and natural relationship. Advisory firms that want to draw in younger clients and investors will need to tap into social media. Of course, you must weigh your own public persona and determine how visible and transparent you want to be. Each channel has unique characteristics which may make it more suitable for personal use rather than business use. Compliance considerations are always there – but increasingly managable with a combination of tools and policies.

There are certain limitations to keep in mind when diving into the social media world. Posts are typically best kept brief – mandatory on Twitter – and nuance is easily lost, so tread carefully. There are also certain rules that regulate advisers’ public communications in order to protect investors. The SEC has not yet established any rules or guidelines specific to social media, which has allowed advisers working at small firms more room to move when working with social media. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), however, has issued rules for the use of social media, requiring broker-dealers to be more formal and deliberate in their social media communications.

Provided that these rules and limitations are managed, social media networks can be a highly effective tool to benefit your business through relationship building. Be active and engaged in the online community and your growing online network will benefit your business offline, too.

FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06: For Compliance Guidance Only


Every day there is an article like this one in a local newspaper sympathizing with someone who was fired because of something they posed online. Thankfully for registered representatives, FINRA is catching up with the digital age and addressed the issue of regulation and social media, fittingly, on its blog. In early January 2010 it released Regulatory Notice 10-06 which is intended to serve as guidance for Registered Representatives. Though short by FINRA standards at only ten pages, it is as monotonous as other FINRA publications. But true to form it does spell out some key things to keep in mind when using social tools:

Record Keeping

Because Twitter, Facebook and any of the other numerous social networking tools are written communication, the correspondences must be retained if they relate to “business as such.” The content of the particular post governs if it falls under the record keeping regulation or not. There are tools from Arkovi and Socialware that help address this.


The same FINRA rules apply to social media as every other communication with customers. FINRA suggests going in two different directions with maintaining Suitability compliance. You may either a) make recommendations but only let suitable customers see them or b) don’t make recommendations. Make sure that either your settings or comments are restrained enough to not allow a recommendation to be seen by the wrong person.


Blogs, being a static environment, are considered advertising and must be approved by a regulatory principal. This means that both Suitability and Record Keeping regulations apply.


Unlike other the social communications mentioned above, posting on Forums is considered a public appearance and is regulated by the same Rule (2210) that would govern any event you were at in person. The same standard applies to the comment areas of blogs, Facebook walls and other areas with interactive ability.


Facebook content falls under both of the two categories listed above. The Profile, pictures, banner ads and any content that users can’t interact with is considered static and must be approved by an appropriate regulatory principal. The wall, comments and any other content that non-firm employees can comment on, poke or engage in some activity is considered interactive. This means that a regulatory principal does not need to approve communications before posting. Due to an employee posting, well, anything on their employer’s wall could be construed as advertising it is not advisable to post non-approved principal approved comments.

As illuminating as this publication was, it is still merely guidance which FINRA offered to shed some light on these key issues. With social media and all other communication tools – Hello, Reply All button – common sense will protect will protect you more often and fully than any compliance officer ever can.

Stay tuned for more articles addressing platform specific concerns.

10 Steps to Get Started with New Media Marketing

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This is the time of year for lists – holiday shopping, family dinners – why not add on one more: Getting started with your 2010 new media marketing agenda!

During 2009, you likely learned about the potential role of social media in your marketing plan. You recognize how the explosive growth of social networking – with tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Viddler, BlogTalkRadio, and YouTube – is fundamentally changing the way your clients learn, evaluate and ultimately make their decisions. You recognize that these web 2.0 tools are an increasingly important influence in the buy-sell process. Buyers seek evidence online to validate decisions and get instant feedback from others by listening and participating in the online conversations.

We work with leading wealth managers and financial advisors who recognize that their clients are using social media and the web to help them evaluate an advisor. The content and professional credentials visible online are an increasingly important part of their decision process.  Successful advisors use their online presence to drive new business. They use blogs, Facebook Groups / Fan Pages and Twitter to engage in the online conversation increasing referrals and attracting new clients.

However, new media marketing is not a panacea. Your online presence and activity won’t replace your existing relationship building activities and the quality work you perform with clients. Your approach to new media marketing should be authentic – engaging in meaningful activities around the quality of your work and personal relationships.  Tackled the right way, a new media marketing approach will further accelerate your growth.

But where do you begin? Which networks should you join? How do you build an online presence? How do you avoid introducing risk with your current brand? What is involved in using social media and inbound marketing techniques day-to-day?  To help you get started, we developed the following checklist. This ten-step plan will guide you in taking positive steps forward in your new media marketing plan. With a thoughtful approach and a committed strategy, you will be rewarded with professional online presence and accelerated growth.

10 Steps to Get Started with New Media Marketing

  1. Define your purpose.  Determine in advance why you are engaging in new media.  Is it for educational purposes or to market your business?  If you don’t have clear intentions, how can you expect to have clear results?
  2. Find your target market. Join the social networking sites which are comprised of your target niche market.  Remember that the most popular social networking sites might not be the sites where your ideal clients visit.  Go to where your potential clients are and don’t just spend time with your peers.
  3. Craft your message. Your audience will only hear bits of pieces of your message at a time, so it is critical that you consistently and frequently broadcast a clear message about who you serve and what you offer. Don’t make your audience guess what you do, make it clear to them.
  4. Gather and create content. Content is king in new media marketing.  Demonstrate your expertise by educating your audience through blogs, articles, videos, or podcasts.  Gather or create useful content to aid you in your new media marketing efforts.
  5. Build your web presence & social media profiles. As you build out your profiles, you will be building a web presence that will give you a footprint beyond your website. This presence will increase your exposure to potential new clients. As you decide to participate in LinkedIn, Facebook, or other networking sites, it is important that you complete your profiles.  A person is likely to only visit your profile once, so make a lasting first impression.
  6. Build your network. The more people you connect with on social networking sites, the more people will see your message.  Make a conscious effort to continually build your connections on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and other networks you are targeting.
  7. Promote your profiles and cross connect. Let people know you are on the various social networking sites by promoting links on your website and email signature.  This will help you organically grow your network. The more sites where you connect with someone, the stronger your relationship will become.  Where it makes sense, find and connect with contacts across multiple social media sites.
  8. Build an inbound strategy. Craft a strategy for your own website and your email/newsletter marketing programs. It is important that when potential new relationships click back to your website that they experience your brand in the right way. Ensure your website is professional and visually branded for your target audience and includes interactive web features like RSS and social bookmarking. Search engine optimization (SEO), landing page lead capture, and lead nurturing should be part of your website strategy.
  9. Communicate Persuasively. Ensure your messages are sharp and clear. Are you delivering a persuasive message? Is your logic clear and concise? Are you listening and empathetic to client needs?
  10. Actively engage. Use social networking sites and your website as a way to promote your content to your targeted market.  This helps educate your audience and keeps your name top-of-mind.  Social media is the same as any networking or marketing strategy – the more consistent you are, the better the results.  Actively participate in the various social networking sites on a weekly basis to achieve the greatest results.

About Kristen Luke

Kristen Luke is the Principal of Wealth Management Marketing, a firm dedicated to providing marketing strategies and support for financial advisors. Kristen works with independent advisors to develop effective marketing plans and provides the back office support required to implement the strategies. For more information, visit 


About John Stone III

John leads Revenue Architects and provides consulting, general management, education and solution services focused on profitable revenue models and integrating sales, marketing and technology systems. Clients include Putnam Investments, Natixis Global Asset Management, Charles Schwab, and HighMark Funds.  For more information visit