The financial services industry is renowned for being behind with the times compared with other industries when it comes to embracing technological change. But one business has set out to help advisers make the most of technology by teaching them to embrace the use of social media.
Financial Social Media specialises in teaching financial advisers and financial service companies how to combine social media with traditional marketing to increase revenue and client interest. The business was set up in the US in 2010 and launched in the UK in 2012.
Heading up the business on this side of the Atlantic is former financial adviser Bridget Greenwood. Although Greenwood did not set out to work within financial services, she accepted the role of financial adviser for Sun Life of Canada in 1999, after being offered the position by a temporary recruitment agency in Norfolk.
“They said to me in the least enthusiastic way possible, ‘I don’t suppose you’re interested in selling finance are you?’” Despite the consultant’s approach, the job did have its attractions. “It was the only job where I had some control over what I could earn,” says Greenwood.
The sales force was made redundant within a year but Greenwood had gained the financial qualifications she needed to move to Insight, where she worked as a self-employed independent financial adviser. “At Sunlife Financial of Canada there was only a handful of products and funds I was able to help people with and it was satisfying now to be able to fit together a solution that was best for the client.”
Greenwood left the industry to raise her son but found it would be difficult to go back to her advisory role part-time after being away for five years from her clients, so she decided on a change of career direction. In 2010, Greenwood introduced The Business Women’s Network to Norfolk, offering local women personalised advice for their businesses. While in this role, Greenwood began studying short courses and researching how to use the internet within businesses. She teamed up with a local business-woman to set up Social Media Education for SMEs which provided training to local businesses and councils in the use of social media.
While in this role, Greenwood discovered US-based Financial Social Media on Twitter and approached Amy McIlwain, president of FSM in the US, asking if she would be interested in bringing the service to the UK, believing it was something the UK industry needed.
“It’s one of the professions that has been slower to adopt social media. Finance firms are traditionally known to be cautious and, to be fair, it is one of the most heavily regulated industries.”
Greenwood believes there are many benefits for advisers using social media in their businesses. Platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter enable them to communicate effectively with other advisers, share information and attract potential clients.
FSM UK launched last year, and Greenwood says she has had a very positive response. “I have found we are not trying to convince anyone. There are enough people out there who want to embrace social media but they are just not sure how to use it. We are here to give them the confidence and show them how.”
Although Greenwood says FSM is still relatively small in terms of the number of firms it deals with, the business is looking to add to its three staff to keep up with demand. FSM will also be independent from the US side of the business later this year, due to what Greenwood says is the result of them moving in different directions.
Although financial advisory firms have seen a great deal of change this year, particularly in the form of the retail distribution review, Greenwood says the fundamentals of firms have stayed the same. “The important things have not changed. You need to find new clients, build a connection with them and deliver a service that is best for the client.”
Contrary to the view of many advisers after the RDR, Greenwood says the advisers she deals with are thriving and are not necessarily seeing social media as critical to keeping their businesses afloat.
“The advisers I am working with have not said to me, ‘We don’t know where we’re getting our next client from, shall we try social media?’ It’s more forward thinking than that. They are more, ‘What else can we do to help improve our business?’”
However, Greenwood believes that in order to succeed in future, financial businesses need to begin to adapt to the use of social media to attract a new generation of clients.
“We are talking about businesses who want to be here in five to 10 years’ time. Almost 40 per cent of the population is aged under 30 and the influence social media will have is not on those people who are already your clients. It is not for those who are already in your circle as they already know you and trust you, it is about extending that reach.
“If you choose to resist change, whether it is in this business or any other business, you will be riding against the tide.”
Born: Aldershot, 1972
Education: BSc Hons, Loughborough University
Career: 2012 – present: president, Financial Social Media UK; 2011–12: owner, Social Media Education for SMEs; 2010-12: Norfolk co-ordinator, The Business Woman’s Network; 2001-05: financial adviser, Insight; 1999-2000: adviser, Sun Life of Canada; 1993-1999: project manager, Fortoak Ltd.
Likes: Comedy, connecting people
Dislikes: Can’t do attitude
Book: The Charge by Brendon Burchard
Film: Anything that makes me laugh
Band: Eclectic taste, last album bought BBC Live Lounge
Career ambition: To see a real shift in the way the public think about their finances and how financial advisers and companies will be a part of that shift with more open and transparent communications
Life Ambition: To watch my son make his way in this world with dignity
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…challenging the way people think in one form or another