From the August 2007 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

Protect your business by protecting your brand

If your business is advising people on how to invest their money and, ultimately, receiving their trust as you manage it, then you're constantly involved in building your brand. At the center of your brand is a reputation shaped by experience, proven reliability, trusting relationships and communication skills that make so many financial advisors successful. Your brand is largely spread by word-of-mouth referrals, a simple but powerful communication channel you can neither buy nor control.

Without brand credibility, you could be a qualified and knowledgeable advisor, but you'll still have a tough time winning clients. Your brand is the cornerstone of your business. Are you doing everything you can do to protect it?

Financial companies invest a significant amount in promoting well-crafted brands -- typically hundreds of millions of dollars each year. But these same companies work hard to protect brand equity. They realize that something that took years to build can be damaged (or destroyed) in a day. All it takes is one misstep.

According to NASD statistics, more than 700 reps and firms were suspended or banned in 2006. Many others were disciplined in a meaningful way that can still affect their credibility and overall profile.

A powerful brand must be client-centric. If you ensure their best interests are protected, you're on the right track. Would you recommend an investment to a client that, in similar circumstances, you would not make for yourself or your family?

Technical proficiency and a high level of industry education are core ingredients to a successful brand. It's a rapidly evolving field, one with mounting regulatory risks. You should employ all available resources to protect your brand, and there are many. For example:

  • Take advantage of the expertise in your broker/dealer organization's legal and compliance team. Their role is to stay on top of new regulations, especially those that affect how you conduct business as you promote or build your brand. Take time to actually read broker/dealer communications to advisors. If compliance has something to say about an issue, it's important enough to read.

  • Follow your broker/dealer's policies and practices guidelines. You may have completed a rigorous training and orientation process when you first joined -- and it's no doubt second nature to take the correct approach for situations that surface most frequently in client relationships. But don't take short cuts. Adherence to the guidelines will protect your brand.

  • Make it a point to routinely visit the NASD web site ( It's well-organized and speaks to your interests. Specifically consider the tabs Regulatory Consolidation, Rules & Regulations, Enforcement, Education and Programs and Arbitration. The NASD home page features the latest priority information, aptly labeled 'Member Alert' or 'Notice to Members' -- in nearly every case, these priority notices are about emerging issues that apply to most of the hundreds of thousands of NASD registered reps.

Your brand will sustain and grow your business. It's at the core of your relationship with clients. It precedes and positions you in any business discussion, whether with an existing client, a prospect or with peers and competitors. How you build, sustain and protect it is critically important to your success. When you invest in your brand, you invest in yourself.

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