Not every advisor-hosted podcast should be about investing: “Boring!” says UBS financial advisor Mitch Slater, whose popular “Financially Speaking with Mitch Slater” podcast never discusses investing or the market. Instead, he delivers financial and business success stories in interviews with entrepreneurs, corporate executives, celebrities and personal finance authors.
The show has brought Slater substantial business, though it isn’t intended as a prospecting tool, the senior vice president tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.
Slater, 59, had a bit of leverage when he launched the podcast in January 2019: His prior career was in broadcasting, where he was an associate producer for the likes of talk show stars Larry King and David Susskind.
The FA’s UBS practice with partner Ann Trainor, the Slater-Trainor Group, has assets under management of about $300 million. Accounts average $1 million to $10 million in size.
On the podcast, Slater has interviewed, among many others, JetBlue Airways Chairman Joel Peterson; Larry King, now hosting shows on Hulu and RT America; rock music photographer Pamela Springsteen; musician-actor Steve Van Zandt; and Gary Vaynerchuk, multimedia company VaynerX chairman and CEO of ad agency VaynerMedia, as well as a slew of entrepreneurs like Ali and Lauren Borowick, sister co-founders of “Fatty Sundays,” purveyors of chocolate-covered pretzels.
“Financially Speaking” is all about branding — a way for listeners to get to know Slater, the Springfield, New Jersey-reared FA says in the interview. Here’s a bio bullet point: He is a major Bruce Springsteen fan, who has attended nearly 300 of the rock singer-songwriter’s performances worldwide.
Has “The Boss” been a “Financially Speaking” guest? Slater discusses that in the interview, along with how his enthusiasm for Springsteen’s work has ultimately led to acquiring new clients.
To date, the advisor has hosted 75 podcast episodes, and his roster of upcoming guests is jam-packed. Included are pandemic-related interviews, such as a talk with Billie Jean King about sports during the crisis and LinkedIn managers providing tips on how to use the platform for re-doing one’s profile for a job search or to seek new business.
After five years in show business, in 1987 Slater changed gears and became an advisor at Merrill Lynch, where he spent the next 18 years — and hosted a radio show interviewing folks such as Peter Lynch and Al Gore — before moving to Smith Barney and then, in 2010, to UBS.
ThinkAdvisor recently held a phone interview with Slater, who was speaking from home in Westfield, New Jersey, where his UBS office is also located. The accomplished on-air host offered some podcasting tips, including this critical one: “Be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.” A good idea, as well, when dispensing financial advice to clients, as Slater himself learned at the start of his financial services career.
Here are highlights of our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: Do you discuss investing and the stock market on your podcast?
MITCH SLATER: Never. I’m the opposite of CNBC and Bloomberg.
So you wouldn’t interview a fund manager, say?
No — boring! Talking about the market — about, for instance, municipal bonds — I can’t think of a more boring story. I want [listeners] to be intrigued. I don’t believe that doing a show on investing is the right way to build your business. Also, it would be fiscally irresponsible for me to give financial advice. I do that only when I know an individual’s situation.
What, then, do you talk about on “Financially Speaking with Mitch Slater”?
Things I’m passionate about and that I think other people are interested in and might enjoy, which have a business or financial spin. For example, I’ve done shows on kids and money and newlyweds and money and the new look of HR in business.
What’s the purpose of having a podcast?
I built my business through marketing, developing a brand that people feel comfortable with. I previously had a radio show when I was with Merrill Lynch and then UBS. With the podcast, to have a strong relationship and develop trust, I want people to get to know me.
How does the podcast help your brand?
I don’t look at this as a typical ROI — return on investment. I look at it as an ROR — return on relationships.
So is this mostly about prospecting for new clients?
It’s brought in significant business, but that’s not because I’m prospecting. It’s just part of my brand. I’m aiming at a general audience. I post the episodes on LinkedIn. All my clients listen; I get feedback and referrals from them, as well as from the connections of people I interview.
Do other financial advisors listen to your show?
Yes, and I hear from many of them, certainly [FAs] at UBS who are considering doing their own show. If their first question is, “What’s been the return on your investment?” — I pay for my show’s production work — I know they want to have a podcast for the wrong reason. As I said, it’s about the return on relationships.
Who have you interviewed during the coronavirus pandemic?
I’ve tried to correlate things as much as I can to what matters now. I have a show coming up with some top folks at LinkedIn talking about how people should be adapting and redoing their profiles. They’ll give tips for people who have never been on LinkedIn on how to brand themselves and use messaging, LinkedIn Sales Navigator and so on — whether they’re looking for new business or for a job.
Your first career was in broadcasting. How did you get into it?
When I was an undergrad at George Washington University, one of my internships was with Howard Stern at DC101 [radio station]. The second week I was there, in walks this lanky guy coming on like a ball of fire. He said, “Kid, put on [some] headphones!” I said, “I’m not supposed to be on the air.” He said, “I got it. You’re on the air!” So for about four months, I was basically [Stern’s sidekicks-to-be] Robin [Quivers], Gary [Dell’Abate] and Fred [Norris] all rolled into one.
Larry King hired you for your first real job when you were fresh out of college. Have you had him on the podcast?
Yes. He talked about his early life, and some of the great business leaders he’s interviewed over the years and what he learned from them.
You’re a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, attended nearly 300 of his shows worldwide and made many connections through that and via your work in broadcasting. How has that networking helped your podcast?
Tens of thousands of people follow me on social media. I’ve been fortunate enough to be up-close and personal at a lot of Bruce Springsteen-related events. Many of the people [I’ve met] listen to the show, and some have become clients.
Has Bruce Springsteen ever been on your podcast?
I’m working on it! I’ve met him a few times. I’d love to interview him. But I want his coming on to happen organically, and I’m hopeful that it will. Even better than my interviewing him, was having my 92-year-old mother meet him a year ago.
How did that come about?
[Springsteen band member] Steve Van Zandt asked her [Bea Slater] to be a go-go dancer the opening night of a tour of his [own band] Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. They wrapped her in a boa and put her on stage. After she danced, Bruce sat down with her backstage, and they had a conversation. Seeing my mother meet him and the joy that brought her meant so much to me.
When you were in showbiz as a producer for Larry King, David Susskind and other talk show stars, in 1987 your financial advisor father, [the late] Jack Slater, suggested that you become an FA. What prompted that?
A month before I was to be married, he said to me, “I know you love broadcasting, but are you ready to get a real job now? I think you’d be a tremendous financial advisor.” He was with Merrill Lynch. I said, “Dad, when did you start taking drugs?”
Still, you took his advice, right?
Yes. I went up to Merrill Lynch, and [the managers I met with] said: “You have communication skills. We can teach you the rest. You’ll make $100,000 in three years.” In 1987, that sounded really appealing. So I decided to take a chance.
Your first day on the job turned out to be Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987. How was that experience?
I watched the market crash. I didn’t have any clients or money [in the market], so I was just an observer. The biggest thing I took away was watching how proactive my father was with his clients and watching how many [FAs] were hiding under their desks.
Amid the coronavirus lockdown, how did you reach out to your clients?
In the first two weeks, we emailed a video showing each member of our team working from home — speaking from the heart and letting them know that we take the responsibility of managing their wealth very seriously. It gave them comfort. Many other advisors at the firm who heard about it did videos, too.
Besides the podcast, what else differentiates your practice?
Having a male and female advisory team is very special: Ann Trainor and I have been partners for 15 years. Every relationship needs an accelerator and a brake. I’m the accelerator. She’s the brains of the outfit. So whether we’re preparing a financial goal analysis, doing estate planning, putting together a managed portfolio, we talk about everything. Sometimes we’ll disagree, but in the long run that’s led to much better outcomes for clients.
What advice do you have for FAs who might want to launch a podcast?
If you’re doing it because you think you’ll instantly, dramatically grow your business, that’s the wrong reason. It should be for developing new relationships with people that are like-minded and for whom you can provide something they can’t get elsewhere.
What do you advise as to podcast specifics?
You’ll need a theme for your show — something you’re passionate about that you think the [clientele] you work with would be passionate about, too.
Financial advisors’ chief expertise is investing. Should they, logically, focus on that?
I would never recommend that anyone do a podcast on investing. But you could certainly do a show about women and money or children and money, or about entrepreneurs.
What type of personality makes a successful podcast host?
This is really for someone who’s outgoing. If you’ve never done any public speaking, it probably isn’t for you. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not — people pick up on that. Be yourself. I learned that when I started as a financial advisor.
I spent more time acting the role of an advisor than actually being one. I wore fancy suits like I saw in the movie “Wall Street.” I used a lot of jargon in my first years. That was ridiculous. I don’t ever do that now. If I can’t explain an investment to a client in one sentence, it doesn’t make sense [to recommend it]. That took me a while to learn.
You close each podcast by asking the guest this question, which you borrowed from investor-author-podcaster Tim Ferriss: “If a magic genie gave you a billboard on which you could put any message, what would it be and why?” What have been some recent responses?
Since the pandemic, the answers have been very similar: “Be kind.” And: “Don’t give up!”
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