Financial professionals and firms looking to boost brand recognition and attract clients are turning to Harvest (, a social platform for investing ideas that launched in December 2013. More than 85,000 users were signed up for the free public site as of year-end 2014, including nearly 11,000 verified professionals hailing from more than 4,000 financial firms managing more than $5 trillion. Participants include BlackRock, Morgan Stanley and Legg Mason Global Asset Management.

Harvest’s registered users have provided more than 65,000 pieces of content—including articles and white papers—and the site receives up to 250 posts each trading day. Most content comes from verified financial professionals who generally manage assets or sell financial research or investment advice.

In late 2014, Harvest started beta testing private portals with independent advisors, which enable them to offer clients and prospects more targeted information. The portals can be accessed either through an advisor’s site or Harvest’s site. The company says about 2,500 financial advisors use the platform, including wealth managers and financial planners.

According to Peter Hans, co-founder and CEO of Houston-based Harvest Exchange Corp., Harvest’s chief goal is to help financial professionals improve communication, engagement and transparency with clients. “A more engaged client is a stickier client,” he says.

“There is no shortage of places online you can go to get investment information,” he adds. “But very rarely, if ever, do you see that coming directly from a financial professional, either for cultural purposes or compliance concerns.”

Harvest’s patent-pending compliance module is a key differentiator, says Hans, who worked on the asset management and sales sides of the financial services industry. It addresses the two requirements that SEC- or Finra-regulated firms must meet when sharing content with the public: getting prior approval from a compliance officer and doing proper record-keeping.

The module lets firms designate compliance officers who receive an automatic e-mail whenever one of their employees posts content, replies to a comment or virtually trades a stock in its model portfolio. The officers can approve, edit or reject the attempted communication. Firms can satisfy record-keeping requirements by storing e-mails through Harvest’s partnership with data archiving firm Smarsh, or with their own e-mail service providers. Communications posted on Harvest’s private portals (as opposed to its public network) are considered private, akin to e-mails, Hans says.

Regarding other social media sites, he says content shared on Harvest outperforms the same content posted to LinkedIn by 200% to 600% in terms of views and reach. That’s because unlike LinkedIn, where posts are sent to a member’s existing connections, Harvest posts go out to all users based on the sector, theme or asset class filters they select.

And as for Seeking Alpha, “It’s more of a media entity,” Hans says. “We’re really serving as a marketing and PR tool for the brands and an education platform for the financial consumer.”

Highland Capital Management, a Dallas-based RIA with roughly $20 billion in assets, started actively posting content to Harvest this past fall. “As LinkedIn is to recruiting, Harvest is to the financial content world,” says Daniel Martin, a public relations associate with Highland Capital. “The audience base is one of the biggest draws.”

Harvest’s public site generates revenue through optional promotion and lead generation features, and fees depend on the level of promotion and the customization behind it. Clients with private portals will pay an annual licensing fee to use Harvest’s software.