Texas Tech University’s financial planning program and compliance-friendly social media startup Finect have partnered up in a new program that teaches college students how to use social media as a sales and marketing tool for advisor practices.
The university’s Personal Financial Planning Department and Finect’s founder, Jennifer Openshaw, announced their collaboration Monday at an online press conference. Students in the Texas Tech program were also on hand during the conference to talk about how they’re learning to bring the technology, marketing and entrepreneurship of social media to firms where they will serve as interns and new hires.
Student Dustin Parks, 43, a career changer and U.S. military veteran who served in Afghanistan, said that he previously had worked in information technology as a Web designer and noted that social media offers a low-cost way for firms to reach out to clients, especially if those firms hire interns to get them started with their online sales and marketing efforts.
“The cost of using social media is almost nil compared to a traditional advertising effort for a new financial planner, which can take a lot of time and money,” Parks said. “Plus, everything is headed to social media. With FINRA and the SEC, you normally can’t talk to clients and stay compliant, but you can with Finect. In Finect you can take something and push it out to Facebook or LinkedIn. I have friends in the military who want financial advice and sometimes they don’t want to phone me or send an email.”
‘Hiring Firms Will Say, “You’re Our Tech Director”’
Personal Financial Planning Prof. Barry Mulholland, CFP, ChFC, said the department has received more than $5 million in gifts from tech firms along with about 50 donated software packages.
“Our students know social media from a Facebook perspective, but they need to go from a social to a business standpoint” Mulholland said. “There’s a push for students to study marketing data and to take on the role of understanding what’s in the technology. Hiring firms will say, ‘You’re young, you like technology, so you’re our tech director.’ This is why the next generation will be hired by financial planning companies, and the Finect partnership is part of that.”
Located in Lubbock, Texas Tech University operates a large financial planning degree program where more than 200 students annually seek undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the first Ph.D. ever offered in personal financial planning. The financial planning industry, meanwhile, reports better-than-average job prospects for skilled students. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects personal financial advisor job growth of a “much faster than average” 32% from 2010 to 2020, with 2010 median pay of $64,750 per year.
Texas Tech Prof. Deena Katz, CFP, said students are learning to create sales and marketing plans in the university’s entrepreneur class, where they’re using Finect. “The more they know, the greater likelihood they’ll get hired before they go out of the door,” Katz said, adding that the Personal Financial Planning Department’s annual placement rate now stands at 95%. As for retention, the department tracks students three years after graduation and has found that 85% to 90% remain in the advisory business.
Half of Advisors Won New Clients via Social Media
Citing Accenture findings on how tech-savvy advisors can regain investor trust, Openshaw said 48% of advisors report using social media to interact with investors on a daily basis and 50% say they have successfully used social media to convert prospects into clients. Also, she said, 52% of advised social media users said they would like to interact with their advisors via social media, according to LinkedIn.
“Social media is a huge growth opportunity. Marketing and niche sales come into play in social media,” she said. “This is a rich and growing opportunity for students coming out of financial planning programs who need to operate in today’s environment.”
In reporting for ThinkAdvisor on the Finect startup on June 19, Research magazine editor Gil Weinreich summed up the platform as follows: “In one fell swoop, the advisor can share content with followers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter — thus cutting down the time involved in staying social. Meanwhile, merely by checking a few boxes, the compliance officer can permit allowable communications in advance and know that everything will be tracked and archived for a period of five years, as required.”
During the online press conference, Openshaw elaborated on Finect’s social media platform, showing how the compliant site allows for an advisor home page, followers, trending posts, blogs, news, groups, companies and more. Advisors can build public pages as well as private pages for clients.
Jeremy Ransom, 24, student president of the Personal Financial Planning Association (PFPA) on the Texas Tech campus, pointed out that the PFPA already has a membership page on Finect, which is backed up both for compliance purposes and to provide a history of the group’s activities.
“People like my folks used to read newspapers, but nowadays, Google knows everything,” said Ransom, who served in the Marines for five years before attending Texas Tech. “I have buddies in Afghanistan who I communicate with every week on Facebook. The social media is industry is huge and will have a big impact on the financial planning profession.”
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