LinkedFA, a free social network exclusively for financial advisors, insurance agents and the investors who want to work with them, has just inked a deal with Thomson Reuters. Under the deal, LinkedFA’s user base will have access to Thomson Reuters’ financial stories and research starting this month. It’s the firm’s first move in a broader effort to create a tiered pricing structure for its social networking site.
As a new customer of Thomson Reuters, linkedFA will be able to make news stories, research and other data available to its own clientele of nearly 10,000 independent financial advisors. While some of that content, like its own service, will be available for free, more advanced financial data will be available to a new premium-tiered customer only. Reuters is just the first in a number of content providers the firm plans to hook up with over time, said linkedFA’s CEO and co-founder Jason Bishara.
Bishara believes content tailored to financial advisors is critical for reps dabbling in social media as it provides them with ways to update their status and connect with clients in their network—but with information they know is vetted, accurate, and likely to meet with approval.
“Social media is inherently about people creating content, sharing opinions and getting other people to validate or devalue that opinion,” he said. “In the financial community it’s more difficult to get people to do this, because of the scrutiny in saying something wrong or that is outside of FINRA rules. But they’re also concerned about alienating their clients. This is their livelihood.”
Financial advisors and insurance agents may sign themselves up for LinkedFA, but investors must be invited onto the site by their financial advisors.
Thomson Reuters applauds linkedFA for being an early player, carving out a way for content to drive social interactions within the financial community, said Jaime Punishill, Global Head of Wealth Online at Thomson Reuters.
But Reuters may ultimately be LinkedFA’s competitor, as the news organization is building its own social media strategy—meant to help its broker/dealer customers maximize their ability to facilitate social dialogue. While refusing to be specific about how this strategy will look, Punishill did emphasis he sees the firm’s content as particularly well suited to help reps work with existing and new prospects.
“We power 200,000 desktops in this country,” Punishill says. “And we see a natural and strategic extension to think about how our clients can use that content to attract assets and engage in social discourse.”
Wall Street firms are slowly stepping into the social media terrain albeit timidly because of regulator concerns. Even as larger firms including Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MSSB), UBS and Wells Fargo have opened up LinkedIn and, in MSSB’s case, Twitter to their advisor base, they are limiting how reps can use these networks.
A handful of independent broker/dealers have already adopted a more open approach to social media: Raymond James, Commonwealth and Cambridge Investment Research allow their reps to have interactive conversations with customers in real time, and without pre-approval.
Just a year old, linkedFA carved out a niche for itself targeting this group of independent reps. It caters to FAs who are eager to interact with their clients through a social media experience, but in a very controlled way. For example, linkedFA allows its users to pre-approve comments from their own clients before they’re posted, something Facebook certainly doesn’t allow until after a post or comment has already appeared. It’s a feature that is extremely popular within the network, says Bishara.
So too, he notes, is having content that is easily accessible. The Thomson Reuters stories, research and data will sit on a rep’s social media page, allowing them to share the material across their network without having to leave the site, unlike other social media sites where users click on embedded widgets on outside news sites that then send the content back to their network.
LinkedFA will roll out Reuters content in the next two weeks, with a second roll out, to include more detailed research such as composite summaries and stock ratings, in a month. Much of the content will be free, but some data such as in-depth reports, will come with a price tag that Bishara says he has yet to set. He wants feedback from his customers on this first, as well as how the content should eventually look.
“The financial advisor audience is a finicky group that doesn’t like change,” says Bishara. “So as we roll this out, we will listen and then integrate what we hear from them.”