Believe it or not, the onslaught of new technology, the rise of the robo advisor and the oncoming DOL rule has actually made it a more exciting, more promising time to be an RIA.
I am sure we’ll hear a lot about these things this week at Schwab’s annual conference for advisors.
Make no mistake, the need to quickly and effectively integrate new technologies into the practice management, account aggregation and marketing components of your RIA business has presented some challenges. There are new costs, new ways of managing client interactions and an increasing fear that the technology will nudge the human advisor out of the equation that has unsettled many RIA firm executives. But, the technology has created opportunities for clients to have a greater degree of transparency into their financial life and a greater sense of connection to how their financial decisions are impacting their progress to the goals they have set for themselves.
The regulatory environment means that a new standard will apply to 401(k) and other ERISA retirement plans. The SEC will have a rule in place that will surpass the reach of the DOL rule in the not-too-distant future. This means that many non-RIA advisors will be forced to move to the RIA model or get out of the business of financial advice and investment planning. More advisors entering the RIA channel means more competition, but it also means more talent for an industry that has a glaring need to account for the graying of its industry workforce.
As someone who has worked with RIA firms for close to 15 years helping them to position and market themselves, I see the changing landscape as the ideal time to recommit to your marketing objectives.
If you are running an RIA firm, you can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines and neglect a real focus on three critical areas: (1) your technology investments; (2) the recognition of your brand; and (3) your ability to integrate the skills and judgment of human advisors with technology that will enable your RIA to justify its value not in terms of fees and investment performance, but in terms of how your firm’s advice helps influence client financial behavior and achieve progress towards their goals. Most firms will focus on 1 and 3 on this list, because the heat on technology has forced firms to focus there.
This adds up to a need to differentiate in an area too fee firms prioritize: telling your story to support the recognition of your brand. There are many tools that are low-cost or free to use, but they require a strategy and discipline to reap a return on time investment. Firms like ours can help or you can listen to advisors like Barry Glassman (he’ll be speaking Wednesday afternoon at #SchwabIMPACT)or Josh Brown who will tell you how they’ve tackled the digital marketing and PR game on their own.
The RIA boom is ready to hit another level, but it’s up to you to set your firm up to make the most of it.
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