Why Building Trust is the Top Priority in 2015

February 10, 2015

by Robin Powell

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I’m very skeptical of forecasts, so most of the market sentiment reports filling my inbox lately go straight to the trash.

However, I make an exception for the CFA Institute’s Global Market Sentiment Survey for the Americas, in part because I suspect most of its members have similar doubts.

The most striking – and alarming – finding in these surveys is the same every year: CFA members’ biggest concern does not have to do with the markets or the economy, but with the lack of trust in the financial industry itself. Among its members, 63% – up from 54% last year – blamed this on a “lack of ethical cultures” within financial firms.

Depressingly, the majority of respondents said they didn’t expect the situation to improve any time soon.

That may well be the case. A legally enforceable fiduciary standard in the U.S. remains a long way off. But for those who work within the industry, this is no time for defeatism. Ordinary Americans continue to save far too little for their retirement, and until public trust is restored the problem will only get worse.

It was heartening, then, to read that in a survey of 110 financial planners and wealth managers in North America, Europe and Australasia, 90% identified establishing trust with clients and prospects as a key marketing objective for 2015.

The research, by Birmingham Business School, also revealed an interesting new emphasis in companies’ marketing strategies. Asked which form of marketing they considered most effective, more than half said “content.” Events and seminars were rated the next most effective, ahead of printed materials and press releases.

I have long advocated using high-quality, engaging content to build trust and attract and retain more clients, so this is a welcome development. Your content reflects – or should reflect – you and your values and it has to take center stage in your firm’s marketing strategy.

Another finding from the Birmingham study was more worrying; advisors are becoming less convinced of the value of social media. Advisors have never been prolific users of Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, and now many of those who have used social media are scaling back.

That is surely a mistake. Social media is where clients and prospective clients are. Not being there alongside them makes very little sense.

Content and social media need each other. You can have the best content, but if not enough people in your target demographic see it, you’ve wasted precious time and resources.

Social media is the how you direct your content to the people you want to see and engage with it. It’s also how you share other people’s content – and that too is a very effective way to build trust.

Robin Powell is a reporter and presenter for Sensible Investing TV and the Executive Director of Ember Television, a content marketing company specializing in the financial advisory sector.

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