Miami-based linkedFA, a social networking site catering primarily to independent financial advisors, this week locked down a $3 million cash infusion from a pair of angel investors eager to see the fledgling site take flight.
While tens of thousands of independent financial advisors looking to build their brand and their book of business are just now warming to social media, most are still reluctant to jump in with both feet due to compliance and regulatory issues set forth by FINRA, the SEC and FSA, most of which deal with archiving and recalling all correspondence to protect investors.
LinkedFA, which doubled its registered user base in the past four months to more than 7,000 members, attempts to assuage those fears by serving as something of a compliance engine for all the various social media correspondence advisors send and receive through its own site or on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the rest.
CEO Jason Bishara said linkedFA is currently the only social networking site for the financial advisor community that aggregates and stores all social media communication on its network for six years. It also has partnered with a number of data and research providers, including Thomson Reuters, to give members access to data that can be easily culled and disseminated to current and potential clients and fellow advisors to raise their profiles and, hopefully, drive new business their way.
"It's really no different than email in the early days," Bishara said. "I used to be a financial advisor. For a while, we weren't able to use email. What we did and how I got into this was we built a CRM app with pre-approved templates that archived all the correspondence. That was the only way to send emails."
Bishara said along with connecting fellow advisors to one another and prospective clients, linkedFA embeds an archiving component and the monitoring and control tools advisors need to stay in compliance while also remaining -- or becoming -- active in all the various social networks.
"Everybody needs to brand themselves," he said. "If you're a financial advisor or attorney and you're not branding yourself in social media, you probably only have two years of existence left."
For now, there's no charge to become a registered member. Once the site, which launched in March 2010, starts putting some of this new capital to work building out new functionality and adding specialized services and partner-developed content, the plan is offer some premium, for-pay services but the bulk of the site's features will remain free.
Bishara also said plans are in the works to develop and launch a mobile app of the site for smartphones sometime in the next few months. He said the site will also be leveraging its existing relationship with Thomson Reuters in a "unique fashion" to derive more value for its growing membership and predicts the site will count more than 80,000 registered users by year's end.
"We're at a place now where we have something that's proven and now have capital behind it that we're going to use it to drive the development of that user experience," he said. "After what's essentially been a year's worth of beta researching and data-gathering from user feedback, we know exactly what financial advisors want."