The story of New York-based start-up GuideVine—something of a Match.com for financial advice—goes like this: first came love, then came marriage, then came a frustrating search for a financial advisor.

The newlyweds in this story were good friends of Raghav Sharma, GuideVine’s CEO and co-founder. Both are accomplished professionals with a nice-sized nest egg who, despite an extensive Google search, couldn’t seem to find the right person to help manage their assets.

“They looked at websites, but they really couldn’t tell the difference between them, so they set up a series of meetings based on firm name,” Sharma says.
“Later they said they wouldn’t have met with any of them if they’d had any inkling of the financial advisor’s personality because they would have known there just wasn’t a rapport there.”

Convinced his friends weren’t the only ones experiencing this frustration, Sharma two years ago began work on GuideVine. (One of the friends, Brian Stafford, became a senior advisor to GuideVine.) The site launched in March 2014 with 30 advisor clients in the New York tristate area. The service went nationwide this past May and has grown to more than 160 advisors, with 40 additional clients still working on their videos.

GuideVine bills itself as an advisor’s digital marketing partner. The company’s “advisor success team” helps its clients create two-minute videos based on what’s unique about them. These videos, along with a photo and profile, then go up on GuideVine, as well as anyplace else—websites, social media—the advisor wants to post them. Advisors pay an on-boarding fee of $200 to $600, depending on how involved GuideVine is in the video shoot and production, then an annual fee of roughly $1,800.

“What we really want to do with the videos is make the advisor stand out,” Sharma says. “How are they different? What would it feel like as a client to work with them? If they’re an expert in something, then they can demonstrate that instead of just saying it.”

The service is free for consumers, who can either do a self-directed search through the filterable database of advisors or enter information—the type of advice needed, total assets, how important location is, etc.—and receive a set of potential matches based on this criteria. There’s also a “concierge” service available to help consumers navigate the process and answer questions, as well as an option to ask the advisors questions directly. A meeting is set up only if both the investor and advisor feel like the fit is potentially a good one.

While Sharma first envisioned GuideVine as appealing to millennials, it turns out the site’s typical visitor is a married 40- to 45-year-old with kids. Roughly two-thirds are making $250,000 a year or more, and about 40% have more than $1 million in investable assets, he says. The site gets between 1,700 and 2,000 unique visitors a week—roughly 70% of them new, and about two-thirds of the advisors on the platform have met with prospects.

While there are other advisor databases out there, such as BrightScope and Wiseradvisor.com, Sharma believes the videos help GuideVine stand out from the crowd. And for a charismatic advisor, or at least someone who’s comfortable in front of a camera, this can add value. However, advisors are not actors, so some of the presentations do appear stilted, which defeats the purpose. To take full advantage of the service, a genuine personality that a prospective client can connect to has to show through.

 

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