Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s Rules for Embracing Social Media
Most employees in the financial industry don’t have the individual agility of communicating via digital and social media sites to share industry-related opinions or news. Any information being disclosed by an employee or on behalf of the institution cannot swiftly make it across real-time feeds, due to regulatory constraints.
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, (MSSB), stands as one of the largest wealth management firms in the world, and with some 18,000 Financial Advisors, one may understand the organization’s reluctance in enabling their employees to freely tweet or express opinions online. Further, such a significant extension of communications is difficult to establish in a large environment, especially when risk and costs are of utmost concern.
Empowering Financial Advisors in a Regulated Industry
Despite the laggard incorporation of social media among other firms in the financial sector, in August 2011, MSSB took the industry by surprise and decided to support their FAs in using social media in a compliant way. This implementation was brought forth by MSSB’s Director of Social Media Lauren Boyman to embrace what other financial institutions had yet to explore. Following are the steps for financial institutions to follow that stay within compliance mandates:
- Content Management - Leverage compliance technology and content distribution tools that respond to FINRA regulatory requirements, allowing FAs to distribute firm-approved content in social networks efficiently.
- Embrace Social Networking – Opening communications via social networking platforms enables FAs to fully encompass what they already do - build relationships. Create a social media presence that can best facilitate daily communications between clients and FAs.
- Begin with a Pilot Program – Select suitable social media platforms and allow a percentage of your organization’s FAs to use these outlets. Create pre-approved content for FAs to share with their network, keeping functionality within corporate policy and regulatory boundaries.
- Invite FAs to Use - Monitor usage and refine technology, then fold in the rest of your organizations population of FAs.
According to MSSB, there was great success from their FAs during the pilot, from 45% of daily users bringing in new clients (or in process of converting new leads), with a significant amount being very attractive, high-net-worth clients. More intangibly, 90% of daily users said that LinkedIn had been helpful in expanding their network and identifying new prospects. Boyman reported that there were also have countless qualitative FA testimonials on how social media had helped their businesses grow and stay at the forefront of their clients and prospects minds.
“Our FAs want to be able to communicate with their clients and prospects in the same way that those people are communicating in the rest of their lives,” Boyman said, “Clients do not realize the challenges that their FAs or financial services firms face in enabling individual FAs to be present and actively use social media.”
Boyman recognized the opportunity and initiated a crucial component of networking for FAs at MSSB to develop their social presence, present thought leadership, network to find new clients, and communicate in real-time with their current clients.