Commonwealth Financial Network, the Waltham, Mass.–based independent broker/dealer with $272.9 billion in assets, has introduced a new community business unit aimed at forging deeper relationships with its 2,100 advisors. While the firm has had some community-building offerings for many years, CEO Wayne Bloom said it is doubling down on its effort to engage advisors via events, networking experiences and technology.
“We’ve been fairly successful at cultivating a pretty unique community, both with our advisors and our home office team, and obviously blending them together for the community at large,” Bloom said. “We think it’s a point of differentiation for the firm.”
The new unit has about 20 home-office employees dedicated to community efforts on a full-time basis.
About a year ago, the IBD introduced its Connect tool, an internal system where advisors can share hobbies, business interests and specialties and expertise with others in the network. The tool allows them to search by zip code for local Commonwealth advisors for networking purposes.
“If someone’s a Bruce Springsteen fan, that’s something that we know,” Bloom said. “Anytime you can make some personal connections, that’s great.”
“The more it’s used and the more data that goes in there and the more we populate and expand it, the more useful and popular it becomes,” he said.
The Connect tool, which is monitored by Commonwealth staff, is also helping the events team to better design networking events and connect advisors with similar interests. Those interests are driving some of the activities at the conferences. For instance, the firm runs book clubs for spouses and programs for advisors’ kids.
“The more relationships we have within an advisor’s family unit, the more solid the business relationship is overall,” Bloom said.
Further, as the firm launches new products or services, it can also use the data to better match up advisors who need those type of services or would be early adopters.
In addition to Commonwealth’s formal events, such as its national conference, retirement symposium or women’s conference, which will be held next month in Washington, D.C., the firm is now sending staff from this new department to host fireside chats with advisors in their local markets. These folks won’t have much of an agenda, Bloom said, except to discuss new initiatives and other things that may be on advisors’ minds.
For instance, they might discuss the firm's new Entrepreneurial Capital program, its suite of financing options to help with succession planning and growth.
Another part of the community initiative is the firm’s feedback mechanism. Every page of Commonwealth’s website has a “plus” symbol that engages a dialogue box, where an advisor or staff member can give feedback on products and technology. The firm receives some 5,000 pieces of feedback per year, 93% of which are responded to within 24 hours.
“Not only do people feel heard, but they give us great ideas about how we should prioritize technology projects, different products we’re thinking of or services we’re rolling out,” Bloom said.