Registered Reps: Is Your Website Compliant?

FSP FINRA Update

Rules – they can really stink, I know.

I wanted to be sure all Registered Reps knew about and understood the new FINRA rule regarding your website, though. It goes into effect June 6, 2016 so let’s jump right into it and get this knocked out!

What’s All This About?

If you’re a Registered Rep, then you likely know FINRA has the BrokerCheck utility on their website. The BrokerCheck allows consumers to learn more about a registered rep and make sure they are in good standing. It’s like the BBB for broker backgrounds. Well, it’s coming to your website now too.

Recently, FINRA Rule 2210 states an advisor must provide a link to this utility on your website so your consumers have easy access to by simply clicking while there. FINRA is giving registered reps until June 6, 2016 to comply. You’ve got a couple of months – so don’t sweat it yet! What’s very important to understand is the details of WHERE the link must be placed though:

Effective June 6, 2016, FINRA Rule 2210 (Communications with the Public) requires a firm to include a readily apparent reference and hyperlink to BrokerCheck on the initial Web page that the firm intends to be viewed by retail investors, and any other Web page that includes a professional profile of one or more registered persons, who conduct business with retail investors.See more at: http://www.finra.org/industry/rule-2210-brokercheck#sthash.2i0TTM3H.dpuf

Who Needs to Comply?

If you’re a Registered Rep and you have a consumer-facing website, you have to comply. Again, be very careful to understand the bolded comments provided above. This notice must be on any page where a professional bio exists of a registered rep, the initial page your firm uses (so typically the Home page of a website, but could be a Landing page if you use it for lead generation) and any other page which would contain your bio.

I would even caution to include this interpretation also means  your LinkedIn profile. Although the ruling doesn’t outright state this, I feel it’s a matter of time before they clarify it. Your profile is a biographical representation of who you are and your background. Providing a link to the BrokerCheck utility at FINRA seems not only safe but very transparent.

What Do I Need to Do?

You need to work with whoever manages your website and make sure they understand the implications of this ruling. Updating your website, your LinkedIn profile, and any other place where a bio of you as a registered rep exists is mandatory. Failure to comply always equals a penalty of some sort. 

Do not wait to comply; get it done today. If you need help, reach out and ask me. I can provide instructions or even help you get your LinkedIn profile updated so you avoid trouble with something so small.

Again, I know rules are a pain the butt. However, FINRA wants to keep you and the consumer safe and informed. Let me know if you need assistance.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today.

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

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Need More Content? Check this out!

FSP Gainfully
“Content is the reason search began in the first place.” 
Lee Odden said this and it’s truer than true. Financial service professionals struggle with content. It seems I hear on the daily:
  1. I can’t find content for my followers.
  2. I don’t have time to write my own content.
  3. I wish all the content was located in one place.
What if I told you this is possible today? What if I told you this was not only possible but also free to use as a financial service professional? Well, let me introduce you to Gainful.ly.

I can’t find content for my followers.

Content is truly king. Without it, you just have a blank webpage, an unfinished eBlast, or an empty blog. Content is what fills up the blank canvas. The problem is, you have to know where to go to find it and in a short amount of time, or you have to have it yourself. Yeesh!
With Gainful.ly – you literally have a one-stop shop for content. The platform is free to use for advisors. Financial professionals literally sign-up in a matter seconds, attach social media accounts and start looking for content to share. It’s really that simple.

I don’t have time to write my own content.

Look, I get it. I write a weekly blog column. This can take anywhere from an hour to three hours depending on how much research I need to do, editing, fact checking, etc. and I’m an experienced writer. What if you’re not? What if sitting down in front of a blank screen freaks you out? Well, look to Gainful.ly to provide you with the necessary content needs.
The platform reminds me of Pinterest. You have a dashboard where you pin articles to send out. I’ve never seen anything on the platform which took more than three clicks (most are two or less!).
Having a resource like Gainful.ly allows advisors to be mindful of their time, which is very important to the thousands I meet with each year. You can produce more content, but you can’t produce more time!

I wish all the content was located in one place.

Gainful.ly has been the easiest of the content platforms for advisors to use….period! The amount of content trusted providers are adding to Gainful.ly grows by the weeks. Since all of the content is searchable, you can find pretty much what you’re looking for all in one place.
Also, the platform has an application for both Android and Apple. This means you can be away from your computer and still find content to share on your social media accounts. So, no excuses, folks! You can do this!
At the very least, what will it hurt for you to sign-up for a free account and try it out? You have everything to GAIN!
If you’re part of a broker-dealer, let me know. I would be happy to introduce your compliance officer to the platform and schedule a demo with the Gainful.ly folks.

Just in case, you’re wondering too….

By the way, I receive ZERO COMPENSATION for making this recommendation, so for anyone out there who thinks I’m being paid to say any of this, nope – nothing – nada – zilch. This recommendation comes straight from my heart to yours to help you amplify your business…that’s just how I roll.
Let me know how it goes – take the platform for a whirl and share your thoughts!
Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!
Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

Financial Advisors and the LinkedIn Summary

whyWhen working with financial advisors on their LinkedIn profiles, a majority of them do not have a LinkedIn Summary. My inclination is to believe that the clean slate leaves many feeling overwhelmed with the daunting task of talking about themselves. What do I say to not sound dumb? Do I write this in first person or third person? Why don’t my connections just go to my website to see what I do? Let’s help you get answers (and some help!) on getting this important task off your social media to-do list!

What do I say to not sound dumb?

This is a real fear. I know many highly decorated advisors who are very smart chaps (and chappettes!) and when you hand them a pen and paper to write a few sentences about themselves, they freeze up. Think about it for a moment. We know what we do for a living, but how do we say this so we don’t sound conceited, or worse, dumb to a potential client?

First, let’s talk about what the LinkedIn Summary is there to do. The biggest mistake I see people doing is going right into what they do at their job…wrong! The Summary section is your chance to tell your “why”. Why are you in this business? Why do you like working with people and businesses? This is what make you human and people really do want to get to know you on a deeper level.

So how do we make sure you don’t sound dumb? Just be yourself. Honestly, just be you. Come from your heart and say why you do this work. That’s much more important than trying to sound super professional and probably unapproachable. An example is my own:

As the Manager of Advisor Engagement Services at Ash Brokerage, I want to share my passion of social media with the financial services professional. As a six-year-old child, I lost my mother to lung cancer. It’s a mission of mine to tell the insurance story every day so it helps others plan for unexpected events.

I’ve used a lot of keywords in this (my title, my company, what I do which is  ‘social media’, financial services, insurance).  This helps optimize my profile so Google can find me in searches, but you can read this and get a sense of who I am as a person.

Our “why” will evolve over time too.  When I started in the insurance community more than twenty years ago, I did not come in with a ‘why’ that is as strong today. It developed through those years, and so will yours so updating your profile is very important.

If you come from your heart, you won’t sound dumb – I promise you.

Do I write this in first person or third person?

You always write in first person.  Always, always, always.  This is a conversation of sorts.  If your name is John, you wouldn’t go into a cocktail party and say, “John likes music.  John likes horseback riding.  John believes every young family should have term insurance.” That would make you sound dumb (look at the first question of this article!).

Write in first person.  Be conversational.  Use words from your heart.

Why don’t my connections just go to my website to see what I do?

If you’re counting on folks to go to your website for everything then you’re not being realistic. With the shortening attention span of consumers today, you’ve got seconds to make an impression.  Use your profile landscape to be interesting, heartfelt and informative.  If clients go to LinkedIn to find out what you do, then be sure you’re there.  You’re not guaranteed they will go back to search for your website and not get caught up looking at cat videos or making Amazon purchases, forgetting they were supposed to be finding out information about you.  Seize the opportunity to be relevant!

If you have questions about your profile, let me know. I enjoy talking with advisors and seeing them be more active in social media.

Be bigger, better, and more BIONIC!

Sheryl Brown – the @BIONICsocialite

Financial services ARE matters of the heart

mattersIt’s that time of year.  You know what I’m talking about.  You can’t go anywhere without seeing hearts and shades of pink and red everything.  So how do you get your clients to feel the love?  What is the real way to your client’s hearts.?  Chocolates and flowers?  Nope, they just want you to be yourself.  Not real sexy of an answer, is it?

Creative marketers call this being “authentic” but the simpler is answer is just be yourself.  If you want to get to the heart of important matters with your clients, then being authentic means you’re honest, trustworthy, transparent, passionate with a little dollop of uniqueness thrown into the mix.

The Nielsen report on global trust is one that’s important to financial services, yet I rarely see it referenced.  That’s sad.  Who better to learn about this level of trust than those who handle client’s money and financial landscaping needs?  The reason I’m so concerned about financial service professionals not knowing about this report is that word-of-mouth recommendations (earned advertising) is still the MOST INFLUENTIAL way to reach clients and is considered the most trustworthy type.  How many of your clients came from earned advertising?  Probably a lot!

Trust is earned through being honest with each other so it’s a very important component to the mix.  To be perceived as being genuine, some good questions asked in the MarketingProfs article for you to consider in your overall branding is:

  • What promises are we making?  How are we delivering on those promises?
  • How have we demonstrated our interest and investment into our clients’ needs and desires?
  • Are we relatable?
  • How have we let the customers “in”?

When was the last time you asked these questions of yourself?  Your staff?  If the answer is anything longer than six months ago, you have some work to do!  And be sure to be honest with yourself in answering.  Don’t give the old standby answer to shuffle it off your list of to-do’s.  This is important!

You might be asking yourself, “Do heartfelt matters work in financial services?”  Check out this video by Prudential called “The Love Card” – it’s worth the 5 min watch:

It tells a story – makes you feel – and brings the need for financial services home in way that clients can easily understand.  Matters of the heart very much matter in what we do.

Challenge yourself to think about your business.  Be sure you’re being authentic and that your website, LinkedIn profile and all print material tells a succinct and honest story about you and your brand.  Get inside the hearts of your clients!

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown / @BIONICsocialite