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You'll Need Guts to Be Your Own Brand

By Chris Latham June 7, 2013

Jim Dew’s clients know all about his favorite recipes and his brother’s battle with cancer, because it’s in his newsletter. Yet the intricacies of investing rarely make the cut for that monthly e-mail.

Dew, head of Dew Wealth Management in Scottsdale, Ariz., is among advisors betting that sharing more of their private lives and less financial detail is good for business. Other advisors lay out their love of rock and roll on Twitter or try to attract outdoorsy clients by sharing their passion for sports. Whatever the method, the goal is to draw customers in.

“I decided to be a little more open, a little more vulnerable, with my clients,” Dew says.

Along with frequent thanks for the warm messages about his family or favorite charity, though, come the occasional comments that these notes aren’t exactly moneymaking gems. To be sure, personal branding carries risks. Consultants warn that spending too much time on social activities could hinder an

Jim Dew
advisor’s ability to focus on business — or at least give clients that impression.

Robert Sofia of Platinum Advisor Strategies sees opportunity for advisors willing to take that risk. He helps advisors craft newsletters and social events that can have little to do with finance.

Sofia argues that personal branding increases public awareness of the firm by showing that the advisor values quality of life and that it cements client loyalty by providing a sense of transparency.

Advisors should tailor their messages to a desired audience, Sofia suggests. For example, a blog recounting favorite travel experiences might be better suited to retirees than to time-strapped business owners. Authenticity is also essential if the advisor expects anyone to connect with the views expressed or the passion shared.

And then there are the advisors who merge their passions with their businesses. Gold Medal Waters in Boulder, Colo., takes its name from the best trout habitat in the state, something important to its fly-fishing principal, Matthew Kelley.

Meanwhile the website of Chippewa Partners in Alpharetta, Ga., shows photos of founder Dean Parisian holding dead deer and geese — which suits his clientele of Native Americans, hunters and trappers.

When done right, Sofia says, this kind of sharing gives clients and advisors "something to talk about and build a relationship on.”

Rocking Springsteen and School Boards

Mitch Slater has nearly 1,000 followers on Twitter and over 7,800 tweets. Lately a good number of the tweets chronicle his passion for Bruce Springsteen and his bid for a second term on the Westfield, N.J., Board of Education. His day job is senior vice president of wealth management with UBS Financial Services in the Slater-Trainor Group. Part of a pilot program at UBS allowing advisors to use social media, he says his posts steer clear of financial advice, due to compliance and regulatory concerns, and that’s how he likes it.

One benefit to his online openness came when he wrote a blog entry about taking his mother to a Springsteen concert last year. That post led to correspondence with a couple CEOs who eventually attended a charity event with Slater where Springsteen performed. Slater has also gained a few clients as a result of his social media endeavors. “It’s just sharing a personal story,” he says. “If you share, you might encourage people to talk with you.”