There’s no shortage of online outlets trying to match financial advisors and potential clients. Add to that list NerdWallet, a San Francisco-based consumer finance Web site that helps folks find the best deals in areas ranging from credit cards and travel to college scholarships and personal finance.
In late February, the company launched its Web-based “Ask an Advisor” platform (www.nerdwallet.com/finance/financial-advisors) where consumers ask financial questions and participating advisors respond with written comments and an accompanying photo of themselves. Clicking on the photo takes you to an advisor’s personal NerdWallet page containing a brief bio, along with contact information and a link to the advisor firm’s Web site. Advisors have the option to post short videos on their page where they tell viewers something about themselves and their advisory practice.
“We’re trying to create a full picture of a financial advisor online and to do it in a way that helps people make a decision about choosing an advisor,” says Shiyan Koh, head of NerdWallet’s personal financial management products. “We’re hoping it fosters long-term relationships.”
NerdWallet was co-founded in 2009 by two high school friends who later worked on Wall Street. The company’s initial mission was to help consumers evaluate credit cards and choose the best one for their needs. It later expanded into other financial areas.
Ask an Advisor’s basic premise is that a relationship with a financial advisor is built on trust, which entails competence, ethics and empathy. “The question is how do you replicate that trust on the Internet?” Koh asks.
She says the Q&A format provides the competence component by letting advisors show their knowledge when they answer questions about client-specific needs. Regarding ethics, NerdWallet says it verifies the credentials of advisors with the SEC, Finra and the CFP Board of Standards (and is working on a way to share form ADV data). The video is meant to create a sense of empathy and chemistry between an advisor and a potential client, Koh says.
As of mid-March, Ask an Advisor had 29 advisors on its platform and another 30 or so in the process of joining. The company started with a small pilot group comprised mainly of Bay Area advisors, though Koh says the site has advisors from other states. The platform is currently free, but Koh says NerdWallet will eventually consider monetizing it, perhaps through a listing fee or an ad-supported model.
She adds that NerdWallet isn’t doing paid marketing to the public, and instead expects to bring traffic to Ask an Advisor from people visiting NerdWallet’s other content pages or doing Web searches.
Jonathan DeYoe, principal at DeYoe Wealth Management in Berkeley, Calif., says one reason he joined the platform was that he’s had scores of referrals in recent years but only a small minority were appropriate for his firm.
“I see NerdWallet as an opportunity for advisors to show their true selves and to attract clients who’d be a better fit for them,” he says. Among the videos on DeYoe’s NerdWallet page are, “Why do you call yourself a behavioral advisor?” and “What have your studies in Buddhism brought to your career as a financial advisor?”
Hilary Martin, a financial planner at The Family Wealth Consulting Group in San Jose, says she’s wanted to create an online video presence, and NerdWallet made it easy to do that. “Ideally with social media you can create a platform for yourself so people already know you and seek you out,” she says. “That’s my goal, and NerdWallet is a key part of that.”
Neither advisor has yet to get any direct leads from NerdWallet, but they say they’re enthusiastic about the platform’s long-term potential.