I’ve written before that technology gave rise to the independent advisory industry.
Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, HP 12-C calculators (for rates of return and time value of money calculations) and fax machines (for trade orders and confirms) enabled advisors to do business without the big mainframe computers and clerical manpower of large brokerage firms. Then, desktop computers launched an explosion of programs (starting with spreadsheets such as Lotus 1-2-3, followed by Excel) and “disc-based” information that further increased the capabilities and independence of advisory firms.
Finally, the Internet, followed by cell phones and social media, brought the entire world to advisors’ desks, homes and cars. Consequently, today’s independent advisor can do more, learn more, know more and work with more clients — from anywhere — than even the biggest producing brokers could just 20 years ago.
The power of today’s technology combined with the growing success of independent advisory firms has also led to other advantages: the dizzying array of software and online solutions for everything from financial management to portfolio management, for one thing. Then there’s the relatively new and burgeoning industry of “consultants” offering to help owner-advisors improve every facet of their businesses, from human resources to legal compliance. (I can remember a time in the 1980s when Mark Tibergien, now CEO of Pershing Advisor Solutions, was the only business consultant in the independent advisory world.)
As far as I can tell, much of this “help” can be extremely valuable to firm owners, whose formal training is usually in financial planning or asset management, who want to grow or simply run more efficient businesses. But that creates challenges of its own — how do owner-advisors find the help they need when they need it? Most advisors seem to rely on referrals from other advisors or meet experts when they speak or exhibit at industry conferences. Yet this is largely a random approach: a reliance on chance encounters to find the help that’s right for them and their firms.
Not surprisingly, the Internet offers solutions to this problem, too. One such solution is ConnectRoot.com, launched last year by Kelly Newsome, who has extensive experience in the financial services industry, including business development, communications, technology and public relations.
“As I saw the resources for independent advisors growing,” she told me, “I realized the industry needed a conduit for finding, comparing and contacting the various strategic problem-solving connections.”
Toward that end, ConnectRoot currently offers three resource platforms: The Resource Partner Directory, Corporate Gift Giving and the newest addition, One Source Speaker Profiles. Each platform offers a surprisingly unique approach.
For instance, while the Corporate Gift Giving platform includes some sources for high-end tasty treats and libations for clients and strategic partners during the holidays and special occasions, it also offers a broad range of charities and worthy causes, including the Expect Miracles Foundation (financial services against cancer), Kick Cancer Overboard (providing cruises for cancer victims), Juggling Life (engaging sick and disadvantaged children through workshops and performances) and the NAPFA Consumer Education Foundation.
The One Source Speaker platform is targeted toward the folks at professional organizations, vendors and service providers who put on our industry conferences, but it’s also an excellent opportunity for advisors who have something to say to their peers to find an audience.
Then there’s the Resource Partner Directory. At present, ConnectRoot boasts 40 firms that offer help for independent advisors in such diverse areas as website design, publishing consulting and content writing, publishing design, conference production, marketing, legal and regulatory compliance, search engine optimization, advertising, social media consulting, LinkedIn marketing, business consulting, video production, payroll management, tech support, event planning, professional and staff recruiting, succession planning and a style consultant.
Altogether, it’s an impressive lineup of people and companies that can help advisors grow their businesses, run their businesses better, and create stronger relationships with their clients — particularly considering ConnectRoot has only been up for little more than a year. The best part is that these resources are all on one, easily accessible website.
As the website grows, Newsome plans to continue to add resources partners and user services, including push notices of new resource partners and their services, and possibly user comments and feedback (which I personally find to be one of the most valuable feature of the Internet: I always read the positive and, more importantly, negative reviews of virtually everything I buy online these days).
To me, ConnectRoot represents another big step in the myriad ways technology is making independent advice increasingly successful — and the future of financial advice.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly named the ConnectRoot founder as Kelly Staley. Her name is Kelly Newsome. The article has been updated.