How Should You Respond to the Massive Computer Hack of Equifax?
The massive computer hack of Equifax, one of the three largest US credit reporting agencies, exposed the Social Security numbers, names, and contact information for up to 143 million of us.
How should you respond?
A lot of conflicting advice is floating around; here is what I am doing and what I would recommend:
1. Go to EquifaxSecurity2017.com and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number to find out whether you are one of those potentially affected by the breach. There is a question on how accurate this is; one person entered their name as “test” and number as 123456, and was told they were affected by the breach.
3. Monitor your bank accounts, credit card statements, and other financial information carefully for the next year. Immediately report any suspicious transactions.
4. Do not rush out and buy identity theft insurance. The big winners out of this mess will be insurance companies that sell this protection, as millions will take out new policies. I do not plan to be one of them, as my opinion that identity theft insurance is of limited value has not changed.
5. If a check of your Social Security number through Equifax's website shows your information has potentially been compromised, you could consider canceling credit cards or closing bank accounts that may not protect you against fraud. However, most major credit cards and financial institutions will cover successful fraudulent attempts to use your account.
Related: Is the American Dream Slipping Away?
6. Consider placing a free fraud alert on your account with the three major credit bureaus to warn creditors to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. If you contact one agency, it is required to notify the others. You can also put a freeze on your credit, which blocks anyone (including you) from accessing your credit reports without your permission.
7. Unfortunately, one of the best actions to take is one that none of us can easily do: change our Social Security numbers. It is possible to change one as a result of identity theft, but the application process requires evidence of serious ongoing problems.
8. Consider contacting your Senators and Representatives to raise the issue of whether it's time to discuss more flexibility around Social Security numbers. The good news is that elected officials may well be among the millions of us in this boat.
While Equifax has handled this debacle poorly (it took them a month to disclose it), they are not the only company that will suffer serious consequences. I see banks and credit card companies, who ultimately pay the tab for identity theft, as the biggest losers.
This data breach potentially involves many people who have followed recommended strategies, such as using strong online passwords and guarding credit cards and account numbers, to protect against identity theft. I recommend following the Equifax story as it unfolds in the media, as it may have an impact on how you should safeguard your data in the future.
Solving Your Biggest Client Issue May Be at Your Fingertips
Written by: Shileen Weber
When the American Funds’ Capital Group asked 400 advisors last year to name the biggest issues they face in their businesses, it wasn’t the DOL, market uncertainty or the economy that sat in the center of the idea cloud of answers.
It was client issues.
At a time when regulatory concerns and market turbulence would seem to be at all-time highs, the advisors who answered the survey were most concerned about servicing their clients as well as ways to find new ones and grow their businesses.
It’s one of the ironies of the business, that the things most people find so hard to manage – creating financial plans, managing assets and staying ahead of events – are what advisors find to be the easiest parts of the business. Marketing - the business of selling themselves – can be the area advisors find the hardest elements to master.
In this age of instant communication, it can be even more intimidating to market your practice, especially to younger clients for whom many traditional methods like newsletters, postcards and phone calls don’t work anymore. For them, email is the preferred way to get information, and, if it’s important, they are more likely to respond to texts, not phone calls.
But, it doesn’t have to be that hard. The digital age gives you access to ideas and content of all kinds you can use to touch your clients in a way that positions you as a valuable resource. The key is to keep it simple, stick to some basics and create consistent outreach that clients and potential clients are interested in and will appreciate you sharing with them.
Here is a common-sense approach you can take that will not require you to hire an expensive agency or take valuable time away from managing your clients’ assets and running your business.
Content is King
Create a content calendar for the year: Think about reasons to touch a client 13 times during the year – that can be once a month and on their birthday. (The common rule of sales is that it takes at least 7-13 touches to make a connection.) The number is limited and keeps you from inundating the clients who likely already feel inundated with content. You can take the seasonal approach – tax planning in the fall, January for account review content, college financing in the spring – and supplement it with topical events during the year. Creating a calendar will help you stick to a plan. Here’s one resource for a content calendar.
Review what content is already available to you: Basically, this means finding the resources you already have and determining what pieces will be most valuable to your clients. Start first by checking out content your broker-dealer already generates that you can personalize. Many firms have economists who write regularly about the market. That’s content you can pass along to keep clients up-to-date they would not have access to anywhere else. In addition to your broker-dealer, mutual funds, your clearing firm, and money managers are all excellent sources of informative and even analytical content.
Personalize the content you use: Add your name, the client’s name or some way to avoid making it feel like canned content that you are using just to check the outreach box. See what capabilities your email program may have to help you.
The birthday strategy: One advisor used clients’ birthdays in a new way. Instead of the card or lunch date, the advisor asked the client’s spouse for a list of friends he could invite to a birthday lunch and made it a memorable event that was also a soft approach to getting referrals.
Become a curator of good content: What your review will show you is that you don’t have to generate the content yourself. You can point clients to pieces you find insightful. You are likely already doing this every day just to keep yourself informed. The next step is to compile it and send out the very best pieces to your clients, again, with a note with your own thoughts about why you found it valuable.
Find out what is working and do more of it: Use your client interactions, in-person and online, to find out what types of content clients liked and any they didn’t. You can use tracking on your emails to see how many were opened as a measurement tool, but the personal interactions tend to provide more insight than raw data.
Be disciplined about your execution: Get help from an office assistant or schedule the time each month to do the content development and outreach. As any good strategy, if you make it a habit, it won’t seem so hard.
Most importantly, be yourself and be personal: You may want to regularly get personal by talking about your family and hobbies. The ultimate is if you can provide content that is personal to your clients, not just about their investments – they get that from their statements, apps and online portals. Think alma maters, hobbies, children and parents.
Of course, as a disclaimer, you have to make sure all content and communications are complying with regulations and the rules of your own broker-dealer.
The process of creating a plan will get you thinking about your clients in a new way. That exercise alone can re-energize your business and get you seeing marketing opportunities in places you may never have seen them before.
Shileen Weber is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at GWG Holdings. She was previously Director of Online Strategy and Client Experience at RBC Wealth Management, where they placed first in two JD Power and Associates U.S. Full Service Investor Satisfaction Study (2011 and 2013).
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