The progress of social media is inexorable and inevitable. Yet many financial advisors are still trying to figure out how to play the game without getting into hot water with regulators.
Finect, a New York City company, has recently rolled out an online platform aimed specifically at the financial services industry. The company believes it can help financial advisors meet their professional and compliance needs in the social media era.
“Financial advisors are tiptoeing around social media and are looking for help to move forward,” says Jennifer Openshaw, Finect’s president.
The company (whose name is a combination of “finances” and “connect”) is in some ways a mash-up of LinkedIn, Twitter, Yahoo! Finance and Match.com targeting advisors, asset managers and investors. Advisors can post online profiles to communicate with colleagues, clients and investors. Openshaw says the site will not only make it easier for advisors to communicate with each other but also to distribute content such as research and thought leadership opinion pieces from a single location.
Finect postings can be seamlessly integrated to LinkedIn and Twitter, she says. Advisors can also create private groups for their clients or public groups where they communicate about topics such as college savings and impact investing. The site could furthermore play matchmaker as investors doing research discover advisors with a particular expertise. “But we’re not yet doing specific matching,” Openshaw says.
Finect’s site allows advisory firms to set content and social media controls and permissions for their staff, and it tracks and keeps records of content for SEC and Finra compliance. The company’s compliance features have been developed with guidance from a former general counsel at Fidelity.
Finect partnered with Discovery Data to verify that professionals on the site are registered representatives active in the industry. “That raises both the standards and quality of the communication and the focus,” Openshaw says.
Asset managers who use Finect can distribute content and research on the site. Investment products such as stocks and mutual funds can have an online profile just like a person or a company, Openshaw says.
Finect has been in beta launch since 2010 in Europe, where the company says it has attracted nearly 50,000 users. The platform, which cost several million dollars to create, offers tiered membership: The free, basic one allows an advisor to create a profile page and groups. The prices for subscription memberships were not finalized as of mid-April, but they could run from $40 to a few hundred dollars a month depending on the platform’s features and functionality.
Subscriptions are Finect’s main revenue source, but Openshaw expects that sponsorships (for, say, webinars or features on the site) will eventually play a larger role. The company doesn’t expect to use advertising, though.