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Turning Data Into Gold

All those bits, bytes, notes and posts have valuable details that can help you grow your firm—and be a better communicator

Tracking the data wake investors leave behind is changing the way financial advisors deliver services to clients. Large corporations already mine data to better understand how consumers behave. But small shops can make use of details right at their fingertips. Advisors who learn how to read those signs can improve their business—and potentially make themselves more appealing to clients who, increasingly, have limited time.

Tight on resources? Social media is a great place to start. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are tiny treasure boxes full of data nuggets. A client’s new baby is born? Another earned a job promotion? Likely that information is tracking high on social networks—and easy for you to view and act upon quickly. Have a bit more in the budget? John Rourke’s Wealthbox allows advisors to view social media streams from inside the CRM—and gather data to make them smarter at how they interact with their clients. Advisors can even type their client’s email addresses into the system to pull up any account linked to that data across 50 different social networks. In one click.

Personal data is in fact a new asset class, the World Economic Forum has declared. Getting a hold of that data, though, is the difference between watching the river and expertly navigating the waters. True, some details are freely scattered online. But more pointed information (Does you client have confidence in your abilities? Are they likely to refer you to others?) may require fishing.

Advisor Impact, a financial services data research firm, polled more than 1,200 clients and found that referrals flowed more freely when a rep asked for feedback from their clients, according to its 2014 report, The Rules of Engagement. When asked for a referral by their advisor, 40% of clients complied. But that jumped to 72% if they were also asked for feedback on the services provided by their advisor.

“If done well, this can reinforce a relationship between an advisor and client,” says ActiFi CEO Spenser Segal, who originally worked with Advisor Impact to build ActiFi Client Engagement, a program that links client feedback to a data platform offering a new window into their clients behavior and details. “Imagine having a deeper understanding of what a consumer wants and needs. What they will and will not pay for is critical for an integrated practice management company.”

A survey need not be a complicated affair. Online tools like SurveyMonkey and SoGoSurvey are quick, easy and fairly cheap to deploy. Advisors can even turn to email, pushing one to two questions out to their client base once or twice a year. And Advisor Impact President Julie Littlechild says advisors shouldn’t feel concerned that clients may feel their time is being hijacked. She believes that when an investor trusts the source of the questions, such as the person shepherding their retirement dreams, they’re a bit more willing to volunteer data.

“Clients care about the provider, that is to say if they’re talking with their advisor about their money and not the fridge they bought last month,” she says. “If it’s easy, and clear about what is being done with the data, all these things contribute to a highly positive response rate. And if used to launch a deeper conversation, that can be increasingly valuable.”

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