Why the financial advice business needs to speak up for itself, now more than ever

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Political rhetoric, Hollywood productions, stock market gyrations and the rise of tech-driven alternatives to the traditional financial advice professional have tilted the playing field against the average RIA firm. As a result, it’s more important than ever for these professionals to speak up and assert their value.

Let’s start with the stock market slump that kicked off 2016 and dampened the mood of investors. This negative outlook is fueling the distrust individuals have with the financial services industry. According to a study by PwC, only 28 percent of consumers trust financial advisors. Not only are trust issues running through the business, but 71 percent of Americans say some aspect of talking to a financial adviser scares them, according to a study conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of McAdam.

Turning to the entertainment industry, recent movies and television shows have surely magnified  Americans’ undesirable views of the financial services sector. In the last few years, the anti-Wall Street sentiment that many are feeling today has been shown from the silver screen to the small screen. The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short (as discussed in my co-worker’s blog post), Money Monster (coming out in May) and Madoff all provide a deeper look into the misdeeds that have occurred within financial services, and it’s clear that there is a growing audience of individuals who want answers (and rightfully so).

The narratives portrayed in Hollywood have trumped the relatively less glamorous stories of the many who do work in the best interest of their clients by providing the advice that helps achieve positive outcomes.  Those “boring” advisors need to speak up for themselves. It is especially important for the financial services industry to focus on communication that builds trust rather than fear. Here are some ways to take control of the narrative and tell your own story:

  • Fine tune how you express your mission: Whether your goal is to help consumers secure their retirement income, bring financial advice to mainstream America or help affluent families create a legacy, the first step is defining your mission. Once this is set, create messaging points that clearly relay your objectives to clients, prospects and peers. It all begins with knowing how to articulate what you do and what you strive for.
  • Use the media to your advantage: A strategic media relations campaign lets you proactively get in front of the press and tell your story, even if markets turn sour. Instead of dismissing media inquiries as items that distract you from your business, lend your voice of reason to the coverage that will happen with or without you. By acknowledging clients’ fears, sharing a level-headed perspective and providing a solution, you attain a level of credibility that sets you apart from other experts who choose to shy away from it.
  • Get your message out: Connect with clients and prospects as much as possible. Consider increasing the frequency of your communication in rocky times, since this is when people need your advice (and a reminder to remain calm) the most. This could be through meetings, newsletters or seminars. Make sure you are leveraging your media placements, too — clients will think of you as a thought leader within the industry.

It’s time for the financial services industry to highlight the value they deliver to clients through good financial planning, rather than sit on the sidelines and let negative portrayals dictate their worth.