Tag Archive for: wealth management

Why I write for you

You can reach more clients and prospects when you put your useful ideas into writing. However, many investment and wealth managers lack the time—or maybe the skill—to put ideas into writing persuasively. That means your audience loses an opportunity to benefit from your expertise.

When your writing isn’t as strong as your ideas, you may gain from a good editor or writer with industry knowledge to shape your ideas into compelling prose.

Why I write for you infographic


While you may get your thrills from helping your clients reach their financial goals, mine come from cracking the mystery of how to communicate your information persuasively. I’ve developed my skill through a variety of experiences.

  • As  a writer-editor for leading investment and wealth management firms and former director of investment communications at Columbia Management, I understand your industry and your vocabulary. Between real-life experience and the studies that led to earning my CFA charter, I know that if you talk about a bond’s “duration,” I must translate that into simpler language for the average investor.
  • As editor of the NAPFA Advisor, a monthly publication for financial advisors, I know how to communicate with that audience, which may be an important target for you.
  • As a former reporter for a weekly mutual fund publication, I know that you’ve got to grab your reader’s attention at the beginning of your story. I’ll question you until I understand your “hook.” I also understand the importance of deadlines.
  • As a corporate trainer and public speaker, I’ve developed the ability to help you become a better writer and editor. It has been exciting to speak across North America on “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read” for the CFA Institute and about “Writing Effective Emails ” for chapters of the Financial Planning Association. I’ve captured many of my techniques in my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to enjoy helping you!



Note: This post was originally published in September 2009 and updated in June 2014 and November 2021.

Marketing tips from Allison Baird of Boston Private

Allison Baird, Boston Private’s senior vice president of products & solutions, shared some thoughts on marketing as part of a Q&A panel at a conference run by Skyword on June 6, 2019.

Here are some interesting comments she made:

  • Typically, the board thinks of marketing as “fluff” that’s not really important. But now marketing is becoming more data-driven, which elevates marketing in the organization.
  • No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “I wish someone would sell me a financial product.” They’re thinking about their kids, about an upcoming trip, or things like that. That’s part of what drives Boston Private’s approach to marketing, including its separate microsite, TheWhyofWealth.com.
  • Big banks spend $1 billion or more a year on technology, so it’s very important for smaller banks to make the right technology choices and to find partners who can help them innovate.
  • Do client surveys to understand clients better—not just annual surveys, but also pulse surveys to follow up client interactions. For marketing, it’s very important to understand who you are and what you represent.
  • Boston Private is on all major social media channels except Snapchat. Employees are trained in compliance. The company also has monitoring so it can pull content quickly, if necessary—it’s good to put the technology in place to do that easily.

For a case study of Boston Private’s “Why of Wealth” marketing, read “Why Ask Why: How Boston Private’s Marketing Strategy Builds Trust Across Generations,” written by a Skyword contributor. Boston Private’s microsite at TheWhyofWealth.com downplays discussion of Boston Private in favor of zeroing in on its clients’ motivations for growing their wealth. This focus on clients and prospects fits with something I tell my clients: Focus on “you,” the client or prospect, not “we,” the providers of services or products.

If you’re marketing wealth management, it’s important for you to use all methods at your disposal—including the latest technology—to understand what drives your clients and prospects. Then, reflect that understanding in your marketing communications with them.

Marketing wealth management to women with Charlotte Beyer

You know that women present an attractive audience for your wealth management or other financial services. “Women with Wallets,” a chapter of Charlotte Beyer’s Wealth Management Unwrapped: Unwrap What You Need to Know & Enjoy the Present, made me think about how you should market to women. Her book targets your potential clients instead of advisors.

1.Don’t treat all women as the same

Beyer points out that women are not all the same. Women who are newly widowed, single and highly successful in their field, married and staying at home with kids, newly divorced, or the beneficiary of a large inheritance will have distinctive needs. She tells women considering a firm to ask themselves if they feel they will be treated as an individual, not a stereotype.

To avoid gender assumptions, here’s what Beyer suggested in an email interview with me, “Look at each woman first as an individual, then discover her goals, her comfort with securities markets, and her hoped-for outcomes, both tangible and intangible.” She also suggests asking questions such as “How much do you know about securities markets?” and “How much time do you want to devote to your finances?”

2. Your employee policies matter, too

Showing respect for women clients and prospects isn’t enough. Your firm’s respect for women should permeate your firm’s culture.

Think about how your firm would fare if potential clients follow these four suggestions by Beyer:

  1. Request that a diverse team be assigned to you. This team should include younger and older, male and female, and ethnic variety as well.
  2. Inquire about the representation of women on the firm’s board and at senior levels, as well as the annual turnover/promotion of women professionals versus men.
  3. Find out how maternity leave policy works at the firm. Ask about flextime, paternity policy, and elder care leave.
  4. Ask what training or educational workshops are offered to women clients. Also ask what professional skills training is offered to women professionals in the organization.

In her email to me, Beyer said, “While many firms may not have answers that will satisfy the client, the willingness to examine current policies and be open to change is appreciated by clients. Cultural change comes slowly, and these questions can speed up the process.”

In addition, she said, “If a firm is proactive and begins to tackle these questions before they are asked, this shows a genuine desire to analyze gender issues. That will be detected quickly by clients and seen as a positive—even as the firm struggles to bring in more women advisors, for example. The turnover of women in financial services is well known. If a culture is not welcoming what women will remain with this firm? Good news: just asking the tough questions internally benefits that firm.

Looking for more book recommendations? Check out “My 2017 reading, with book recommendations for you.

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I provide links to books only when I believe they have value for my readers.

Early Bird registration for financial blogging class

Learn more about my financial blogging class!

Wealth manager blogs that my readers like

“Which blogs written by wealth managers do you admire for their ability to connect with clients or to share insights about markets and wealth management?” This question by one of my newsletter readers prompted me to ask whom you recommend.

Below are some of your answers. I’ve shared some of your comments about the blogs, naming the recommendation sources when you’ve given me permission.

  • Mike Lipper’s Blog—”Mike Lipper has me hooked! I look forward to receiving his blog EVERY Sunday evening. After I’ve read it, I make sure to discuss it with my closest colleagues–and with my husband, too!”—Janet Mangano
  • The Big Picture by Barry Ritholz—suggested by Joe Clemens
  • The Reformed Broker by Josh Brown—suggested by Joe Clemens
  • “I find the syndicated writer Scott Burns of Assetbuilder to be an excellent communicator. His writing style simplifies sometimes complex principles for popular consumption.”—Hugh Gallagher
  • “I like Mariko Gordon’s newsletter for Daruma Capital Management. Here’s a link: http://www.darumanyc.com/newsletter/Daruma_2013_09.html to the most recent one entitled ‘Van Halen, Tattoos and Brown M&Ms.’ As you can tell from the title, it’s a little spicy. Please share one you like.”

Which great wealth-manager blogs are missing from this list?

I see this list as a starting point. Some influential bloggers, include Michael Kitces, who explained his approach to blogging in a Q&A with me, are missing. Please chime in with additional suggestions.

Also, check out an earlier list of my readers’ suggestions: “Market commentary with wit and wisdom.”

Note: This post was expanded on Dec. 29, 2013.

Mind mapping technology for financial advisors

Technology can boost your effectiveness when you use mind mapping with your clients.

Using a digital pen in client meetings will spare you the inefficiencies of an old-fashioned pen or pencil as well as the awkwardness of struggling with complex mapping software in front of your client. After the meeting, using software to make your map more attractive and to manipulate the data will make you more effective with your clients. I recently learned how Jaime Bordelon, executive assistant for an investment advisor, uses a digital pen, in addition to MindJet and SmartDraw software, to capture and share information collected in client meetings.

Five-step process for your client meeting

Here’s the five-step process Jaime suggests for your client meeting.

1. Take your digital pen to your client meeting, along with an appropriate template. Jaime’s firm has templates for topics such as new client, prospect, center of influence (financial advisorspeak for referral source), re-discovery meeting, asset allocation, next phase, and retirement distribution.
2. Begin a general conversation and map it using your digital pen. Expand into more details.

3. After the meeting, you and the client sign the map to show that both of you agree on the information.
4. Dock your pen to save the data on your computer.
5. Give the client the original copy of the map. It’s satisfying for the client to get something to take away.

By the way, Bordelon uses an Okidata MC560 Plus Digital Two-Pen Solution purchased from Futureware in Omaha. It appears have been discontinued.  But there are other digital pens out there and you may find the Okidata model left in stock somewhere.

Mapping’s prospecting potential

“What’s really interesting is what happens after the client takes the map home,” says Bordelon. Mind maps are conversation starters in a way that plain text documents are not.

Sometimes clients leave their maps out in plain sight. Then, a friend sees and asks about it. Before you know it, you’ve got a referral. In many cases, these are referrals of persons whom your clients wouldn’t have suggested on their own initiative.

Another benefit: your clients often think of more information to add when they review the map later. This is especially true when they show it to the spouse, significant other, children, or friends.

Using MindJet or SmartDraw after the meeting

After your meeting, you or your assistant can clean up your map and make it more attractive by inputting the information into MindJet or SmartDraw. You can also color-code sections to make the information easier to understand at a glance.

The resulting map isn’t just pretty and digital. Using the software, “You can expand and collapse the ‘octopus’ it creates,” says Bordelon. “This way you can control the conversation and avoid overwhelming your clients with details” in subsequent client meetings. It’s also easy to update the map in future meetings.

What are you waiting for? Give it a try!


P.S. The beauty of LinkedIn

I owe LinkedIn as well as Jaime Bordelon for this blog post. I didn’t know her when she responded enthusiastically to a mind mapping question I posted on LinkedIn. LinkedIn can be an amazing resource for meeting new people.

Edited October 2, 2011

BNY Mellon says “no” to “staying the course”

“Staying the course” is classic advice from investment and wealth managers, so I was surprised to see BNY Mellon Wealth Management challenge this adage as part of its “truth” advertising campaign.

Staying the course is like navigating a new world with an old map,” says the headline of the BNY Wealth Management ad, which I spotted on the inside front cover of The New York Times Magazine dated July 24, 2011. I love the combination of plain English with a powerful analogy.

BNY Mellon Wealth Management ad

This ad is part of a series, which I’ve blogged about in “Financial ad in plain English: Another one from BNY Mellon” and “BNY Mellon: I liked your ‘truth ad’ until you used that word.” I hope BNY Mellon keeps up the good work.

Still, I was surprised to see the firm say, “Investors must maintain the discipline to stick with their plans,” on p. 18 of its 2020 Vision. Isn’t this what “stay the course” means? Because “stay the course” isn’t defined in the ad, I don’t know. Despite this quibble, I admire this eye-catching ad.

Advertising makes you stupid–even if you’re smart or rich

Highly educated and wealthy investors make dumb mistakes.

This is my oversimplified take on one section of “Mutual Funds: Advertising, Behavioral Models, and Investor Choice,” an article by John Haslem, which appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Index Investing.

“There is a strong positive relation between advertising and investor dollar allocations,” says Haslem’s article, which appears to be a review of other authors’ literature on his topic.

Smart and rich, yet dumb

Advertising emphasizes past performance and rarely discusses fees outside the fine print, so this provides a backdrop to Haslem’s assertion that

  • Highly educated and wealthy investors underweight fund fees and give more attention to past performance.
  • Financially savvy investors underweight fund fees
    and give more attention to short-term performance.

Surprising, isn’t it? You’d think that wealthy investors would take the time to educate themselves and that highly educated investors would understand the importance of expenses to fund returns.

To dig below the surface of this finding, read the source cited by Haslem: Ronald T. Wilcox’s “Bargain Hunting or Star Gazing? Investors’ Preferences for Stock Mutual Funds,” The Journal of Business (October 2003).

Financial writer’s tips

  1. If you’re a financial blogger or newsletter writer, the provocative assertions in Haslem’s article would make a great takeoff point for an article.  For example, you could share how your experience compares.
  2. The Finance Professionals’ Post, published by New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA), is a good place to find tidbits to inspire your writing. I found Haslem’s article in the blog’s “Recent Research: Highlights from March 2011.”
  3. If you’re an NYSSA member, you can pick up more writing tips when I speak on “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read” on April 28. It’s FREE for NYSSA members.

“Smart people”: A good ad by Bessemer Trust

“You” is one of the most powerful words in the English language. You’re much more likely to read a sentence that addresses “you” than one that starts with “we.” But sometimes alternatives work, as in a recent ad by Bessemer Trust, which uses “smart people” instead of “you.”

Do you think of yourself as one of the “smart people”? Bessemer Trust plays on its audience’s desire to be smart in its recent ad. If you still have The Wall Street Journal from yesterday, you can see it on page A5.

The ad starts with the following text:






Bessemer’s text hooked me. I’ll bet it also snared your attention.

The text benefits from being short and plain, in addition to working the “smart people” angle. It has a nice conversational tone. It sounds more like a blog post than an ad by a firm that was founded in 1907.

If you saw this ad, I’d like to know what you thought of it.

FEB. 11 UPDATE: View the Bessemer Trust campaign online

You can view the entire Bessemer Trust ad campaign on the website of www.munnrabot.com. Go to “current work” and then Bessemer Trust. Click on the ad that appears there to see more ads. Thank you, Orson Munn, for letting me know this!

Guest post: “Generate Quality, Low Cost Leads with Facebook Ads”

Kristin Harad’s video series on marketing for financial advisors caught my eye-especially because she talks about niche marketing. I’m a big believer in niche marketing.  So I was delighted when she offered to write a guest post for my blog.

By coincidence, Kristin’s guest post arrived not long after a wealth management firm executive suggested to me that Facebook ads could be a powerful tool for financial advisors.

Generate Quality, Low Cost Leads with Facebook Ads

by Kristin Harad, CFP®

Adding new prospects to your sales funnel can be a costly endeavor for financial advisors.  Workshops, mailings and other tactics can be effective, but the cost-per-lead from these channels is often quite high.  Recently, I’ve discovered how to effectively use a new marketing channel that’s been right under my nose to bring in a steady stream of quality leads at an incredibly low cost:  Facebook.

Now, you probably know that Facebook has become the second largest Web site in the world and last month it was all over the news for registering its 500 millionth user.  But what you perhaps didn’t know is that Facebook also offers an incredible self-service advertising platform that is an absolutely amazing tool for laser-targeting ads to your precise audience.  There are four reasons I really love Facebook Ads:

1)  It’s really easy to create and manage ads.  No technical nor design expertise required.
2)  You can target practically any niche.  Target your ads by location, demographics and interests. You can reach your EXACT audience.
3) It’s highly effective. Put together a well thought-through campaign and you can move people through your sales funnel to becoming paying clients!
4)  It’s really cheap! You don’t pay anything for impressions and some of our ads cost just six cents per click!  I’m adding targeted prospects to my marketing database at a cost of just 83 cents each.

It’s fast and easy to start testing your own Facebook Ads campaign.

Start by going to www.facebook.com/ads where you can sign up online in just a few minutes and instantly begin creating ads that appear on nearly every page of Facebook.  It’s very easy to create the ads — you can make one in just a couple minutes and you don’t need to have any technical or design expertise.

Be sure to design at least five different ads so that you can test different ideas to see which performs best.  The headline and the image you use in your ads have the most impact on click-through rates, so write a few very pithy headlines.  Images of people generally attract better click-through rates.  The more often people click on your ad, the more it will be shown and Facebook will actually reward you with a much lower price.

Next, and most importantly, think carefully about how to target your ad.

Start with location.  My firm mostly serves families within 25 miles of San Francisco, so in the Location section, I target by City, then type in San Francisco and select cities within 25 miles.  Under demographics, identify who your best potential clients are.

Next comes age, relationship status, likes and interests. Since I work with expectant parents and young families, most of my clients are between their late 20s and early 40s, so I put 28 – 44 as the age bracket.  I choose ALL for relationship status, especially since many people on Facebook don’t state theirs.  However, many advisors base their niche off of relationship status, so it can be a really power way to target.  (If you are focused on couples who are getting married, think of the precise messaging you can deliver when you target people who are engaged!)  Then, you’ll come to the small Likes & Interests section, which is where the real power targeting comes from.  This identifies users by what they have placed on their own Facebook page, and you can target them based on practically anything!

As an example, I put in ‘pregnant’ and ‘pregnancy’ as two keywords.  Based on what I picked for location, age, gender and these two keywords, Facebook estimates that my ad will reach 2,200 people.  That’s 2,200 pregnant women between 28 – 44 in the San Francisco Bay Area — my exact customer demographic!  You can’t find that kind of precision anywhere else.  More importantly, now that I know exactly who is going to see these ads, I can write messages that speak directly to them.  For instance, “Pregnant in San Francisco?” or “What New Bay Area Moms Must Know.”  It’s pretty easy to catch my audience’s attention when I know exactly who they are.  Plus, I can quickly create other ad campaigns that micro-target other groups, like expectant fathers or parents of a kindergartner.

These ads work incredibly well for me.  Dozens of people click on them each day, visiting special pages on my Web site that I’ve set up for them.  About 1-in-5 visitors take a further action on my Web site, like subscribing to my email newsletter or signing up for the monthly events that I hold.   It’s critical that you design a Web page with a specific action in mind for these visitors.  Send them to your company’s home page and they will bounce off without spending two minutes on your site.  But, if you offer an informative and relevant free report in exchange for their email address, they will opt-in to your marketing database by the dozens!

That’s what makes Facebook a great way to fill the top of the sales funnel.  Is anyone going to click on a small ad and instantly purchase complex financial products for thousands of dollars?  Of course not!  But by structuring a well-thought out campaign that is designed to pull targeted prospects into the start of my sales funnel, I can begin to form a relationship with them that will evolve over the months ahead and I absolutely convert a portion of these leads into paying clients over time!

Finally, Facebook ads are incredibly low cost.  You can set your own budget, and I’m only spending about $25 per day.  You only pay when someone clicks on your ad, and the price is usually well under one dollar per click.  I think it’s a great marketing tool that is absolutely worth experimenting with, so give it a try today at www.facebook.com/ads.

About the Author:  Kristin Harad, CFP® is the President of VitaVie Financial Planning, a fee-only financial planning firm in San Francisco.  She offers a free video series on marketing strategies for financial advisors at http://www.next10clients.com.

“Where Are We Heading? The Future of Investment Management in Boston”

The future of investment management in Boston was the focus of a panel presentation to the Boston Security Analysts Society’s annual meeting on June 24.

The view that Boston is being left behind made the greatest impact on me, but I’ll report some of the opinions of the four speakers, all of whom are industry veterans.

Reamer: Emphasis on actively managed equities hurts Boston

The investment world is shifting toward aggressive hedge funds and passive quantitative funds, said Norton Reamer, vice-chairman and founder, Asset Management Finance LLC. There’s also currently an emphasis on fixed income. This is because the public has been discouraged by the stock market returns of the past two years. They want defensive, safe investments. On a related note, large pension funds are moving more toward indexing.

These trends don’t favor Boston, the home of the original mutual fund, because local firms emphasize actively managed mutual funds. At least these trends don’t bode well in the immediate future.

For Boston to prosper, it must attract assets from around the world, said Reamer. However, he sees the action shifting to New York, London, and even Philadelphia and California. Boston has only one of the 10 largest hedge funds and three of the 30 largest. While Boston has a history of venture capital, venture capital is less important than private equity, which is concentrated elsewhere, said Reamer.

One of Reamer’s comments held a glimmer of hope. Universities–along with arbitrage groups, traders, and others–are the source of the new ideas that are changing the investment world. Boston has some great universities. Perhaps the universities can fuel the region’s resurgence as an investment center. I’m happy to note that the Boston Security Analysts Society’s program committee has a subcommittee devoting to inviting speakers from academia.

Putnam: Four trends will create many losers, few winners

Investment management is a craft, said Don Putnam, managing partner of Grail Partners, who moderated the panel. He emphasized the need to avoid losing sight of the craft before he described the four trends that he believes are changing the industry.

As a result of these trends, there will be many losers and few winners, said Putnam. The winners will be global firms as well as small cadres of capable people. The big challenge for money management will be to connect these two groups.

Trend 1: The long, complicated supply chain is reordering. For example, people are seeing the problems with “the slices taken off for people who deliver golf balls.” I assume Putnam was referring to wholesalers and the broader issue of 12b-1 fees and the like, though he said that he was not making a case for fee-only advisors. Changes are coming as a result of regulatory pressures, client demands, and “better mousetraps,” such as ETFs and active ETFs. Putnam said he’s sceptical about growth opportunities for the mutual fund industry.

Trend 2: The relevance of specialization is declining. Why? Because the efficient frontier–and the need to diversify into many slices of the market–has been challenged. “It has been proven to be nonsense for the client,” said Putnam. Clients’ “true utility equation” can be delivered more efficiently with quantitative solutions, he added.

Trend 3: The arithmetic of the investment business is changing with the rising importance of asset allocation. As the utility of money management has declined, fees have risen, said Putnam. This can’t last. While clients have bought the “myth of comfort and control,” the past three years have increased client dissatisfaction.

Trend 4: Technology is increasing in importance. Technology should be woven into every aspect of money management, said Putnam. Technology’s influence on money management has barely begun.

Manning: Structure your firm to have an edge over your competition

You must deliver great results to keep assets, said Robert J. Manning, who spoke as CEO of MFS Investment Management, but is scheduled to become the firm’s chairman on July 1. This means you must structure your firm to have an edge over your competition. Manning discussed three key elements of MFS’ structure.

1. Follow a long-term investment philosophy. The world is preoccupied with short-term investment returns. However, MFS believes that you need a culture of long-term investing backed by an appropriate compensation structure. When MFS conducts performance reviews, it only considers periods of three years or longer.

2. Create a global footprint. If your people are only in Boston, you can’t be a winner, said Manning. For example, if you don’t have staff in Europe, you can’t respond quickly enough when credit default swaps widen in Europe. As part of the global footprint discussion, Manning emphasized the need to integrate the firm’s fixed income and equity teams.

3. Analysts are more important than portfolio managers. The old model is broken, said Manning. The most important employees are career analysts who have expertise in specific sectors. MFS has eight global sector heads. These are the people who, if they “see a storm coming” get the entire firm out before it hits.

The increased importance of analysts has been driven partly by the fact that clients want to buy “specialized sleeves of alpha.” This is reflected in analysts’ compensation. At MFS, analysts earn more than portfolio managers.

We sell the global research platform, not the portfolio manager, said Manning. The portfolio manager simply assembles the alpha streams from the analysts the way that clients want.

Hughes: Confident in Boston’s future

Larry Hughes, CEO of BNY Mellon Wealth Management, said that Boston’s talent and innovation makes his firm feel confident about Boston’s future.

Still, the next decade will pose challenges for wealth managers in terms of how to protect clients against continued market volatility and how to capture the related opportunities. Hughes suggested three areas for focus.

1. Investment innovation–The “set it and forget it” ways of the past won’t work any more, said Hughes. It’s important to capture trends that develop–and disappear–in months, or perhaps even just weeks.

2. Seamless and dynamic planning–Wealth managers must “plan across silos,” considering all aspects of clients’ lives, including taxes, estate planning, health care, and more.

3. Better manager-client engagement–It’s important to speak in your clients’ terms. Clients don’t talk about the efficient frontier, standard deviation, or r-squared, said Hughes. So neither should wealth managers. Instead, wealth managers should present issues in straightforward terms, such as “helping you maintain your lifestyle.”