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The Importance of Listening, Looking, Learning

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How do you get started, build and maintain success?

That’s the focus of our monthly profiles and interviews with wealth management leaders, like Mike Schroeder of Baird. One day, he decided to cold call a Baird executive he heard doing radio commercials for the firm. Voila.

Today, of course, advisors need to do more than just work the phones. They have to tweet, update their Facebook pages and post regularly on LinkedIn. Plus, they should keep up with what their clients and prospects are doing on social media.

Social media also can help the industry rebuild trust in financial services, which suffered from the financial crisis and well-publicized cases of rogue advisors like Bernie Madoff; a new study on advisor misconduct looks at the scope of this problem (which I highlight in Research Reporter). You rebuild trust “by being relevant, authentic and transparent,” according to a LinkedIn executive I heard speak at a recent social media conference.

You also have to be highly responsive. TD Ameritrade, for instance, has a dedicated team that strives to reply to concerns raised by clients via social media in an instant. Social media, which it refers to “as a team sport,” is now a critical part of its communications strategy.

Speaking of teams, Jane Wollman Rusoff zooms in on what makes them successful in her feature story this month. This entails facing a number of different issues head on, she explains, and with the right approach.

Indeed, as contributor Bob Seawright explains in this month’s Above the Market column: “[P]roper financial advisor priorities begin with a recognition of what is important and what is achievable …[T]rue success for both advisor and client will require carefully and truly doing the right thing, even when the client doesn’t see it that way.”

Research is pleased to announce that Seawright, chief investment and information officer of Madison Avenue Securities in San Diego, is a finalist in this year’s Neal Awards, which honor excellence in business publications.

Bob’s columns touch on a variety of topics affecting advisors. When I read them, they often leave me with the ever-important (and easily forgotten) Zen message: if it matters, it matters. Give that person or issue the time — and respect — it deserves.

For instance, in one column last year, Bob wrote: “My besetting sin as an advisor, an investor and a person … [is] that I don’t pay attention very well far too much of the time … [which] is crucial to making sense of the world, the markets and our client’s needs.”

Indeed. I found that out literally a few weeks ago when, while working on my mother’s taxes, I ran down her wooden staircase to retrieve a required form without paying attention to how quickly I was moving. I fell down, hard. This bruised several areas of my right side — and my ego.

On the upside, as I sat convalescing on the couch recently, I had a long conversation with my younger teenage son about one of his favorite hobbies (playing the card game Magic, developed by mathematician Richard Garfield). As it got later and I grew tired, I pushed myself to stay engaged in the chat. At the end of our talk, Roger acknowledged that effort. “I really appreciate you listening to all of this, Mom,” he said.

Paying attention counts. You just have to keep focused on that fact, right?! ;)


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