It's a New Tech World Order. Life - as we all knew it - is rapidly changing whether you're an advisor, fund manager, or investment firm.
Get this: Some 60% of financial professionals told Finect that technology is changing as fast as the markets or faster.
That's good news and bad news: the good news is that investors may have access to more information to make investment decisions and will increasingly use social media to find and consider funds and other investment products.
The bad news? Firms need to be ready.
Embracing the New Tech World Order
Here are four recommendations for leaders of funds or advisory firms followed by tips to leverage and operate in the new tech world order.
* Recognize speed is the new normal. Managers must understand that technological change is growing at rates they've never seen before. Expect tech problems you've not seen before. Be sure you have a point person to capture feedback and issues.
* Be Prepared. FINRA and the SEC recently announced they'll be conducting cybersecurity examinations partly to get learnings of where the gaps or issues are in the industry, including mutual fund and ETF managers. Fund managers should have a policy that addresses security of customer data (like backups, permissions/access to passwords, etc) and include a customer feedback loop so that they can report any odd occurrences.
* Incorporate flexibility. Managers need to discard the mindset that says, "If we build a platform, they will come." They can't expect to use the same tech solutions over the long run. Systems have to be designed that can adapt to rapid change.
* Listen to your clients. More so than ever before, investors expect to be heard. Those expectations are being driven by social media systems that are becoming a growing part of their lives. Pew Internet recently reported that 73 percent of online adults now use social networking sites; 42 percent use multiple sites.
Now, the Good Stuff
So how can you harness this rapid change to help your business? Until now, it's been difficult but here are a few tips to get started.
Communicate It - Nearly 20% of professionals surveyed found that say their firms do not update their compliance policies when "new technology advancements are made, such as mobile apps or social media. Over 60% say their firms do and 16% "don't know." If the firm is updating compliance ware, privacy policies or using new systems in a way that is ultimately good for the company and investors, share that.
Go Social: the New Distribution Medium - Get this: Nearly 70% of wealthy investors have reallocated investments, or began or altered relationships with investment providers, based on content found through social media, according to Cogent. Whether it's end investors or advisors you're trying to reach, social is the new medium. It's simply a way of distributing the content or knowledge you have but more broadly and in seconds -- or even addressing online, real-time feedback that can impact your brand (optional). And consider leveraging the expertise within your firm or funds.
Explore New Innovations
Until recently, companies had been challenged by technology's advancement and adopting social media: multiple platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and possibly multiple employees to manage - all while needing to remain compliant. But new innovations like Finect are providing fund managers both the flexibility to meet their goals of communicating online or conversing with investors coupled with the ability to execute against their compliance policies.
For example, in Europe, companies like Fidelity Spain, BBVA and Bestinver use this one-stop social platform to "converse" with investors or get real-time product feedback through their own group or "room." Here in the US, companies also have the option of "private-labeling" the platform to create their own communities.
Know Your Goal - If you are considering getting more current with tech or social media, be clear on your goal: Who's your audience? Internal or external? What will the frequency of use be? And who's the "owner"? These are simple questions that can be listed in a short policy (a social media policy template will be made available through FInect in coming weeks). Don't feel like you have to "do it all." Consider a simple place to start - perhaps just sharing your research or creating an online room for internal sharing and discussion purposes.
The change we are facing today is much like that when email emerged - many said no, but ultimately it became a way of life with new policies and procedures. Now, it's the Internet and social media driving even faster change. The firms that adopt flexible solutions and stay ahead are the ones who should win.
Jennifer Openshaw is president of Finect, a compliant social communications platform for the financial industry, and a columnist for Dow Jones' MarketWatch.