How RIAs Are Rebranding Financial Advice
The next time you have a few moments, Google image search the terms banker, stockbroker, and financial advisor. Have you ever seen so many suits and charts? And yet, clients who work with a financial advisor in real life tend to spend more time discussing their goals than the current price of the Dow Jones.
That disconnect between perception and reality may just be a sweet spot for RIAs and independent BD reps. For starters, independent firms tend to have a looser dress code than Wall Street. But there’s also a chance to develop a “natural market” of clients, flipping the script on that term.
Whereas wirehouses once pushed new advisors to tap their friends and family (natural market) for new clients and assets, independent advisors are free to figure out who they’re passionate about serving organically. Here’s how Anna N’Jie-Konte, founder of Dare to Dream Planning, described finding her market to us: “It’s a little bit of a leap of faith and a vulnerable exercise… And it is a bit of an evolution. You start to see over time who are your best fit clients, who you do the best work for.”
For N’Jie-Konte, that’s female entrepreneurs, specifically women of color. Forget the “girl boss,” N’Jie-Konte is channeling #RichAuntieEnergy for her clients. You know the woman: the successful entrepreneur with cash to travel the world with a nest egg at home. But that’s just one niche.
Shedding the Old Brand
ThinkAdvisor recently ran a piece titled Why Working with Strippers Makes Sense for Financial Planners. Previously, the only link between advisors and strippers may have been The Hustlers at Scores, where strippers (who would later be portrayed by the likes of Jennifer Lopez on screen) stole cash from Wall Street types.
In reality, many sex workers make money the same way athletes do: variable income that peaks early in a career they often age out of. They have questions about taxes, from reporting income to what counts as deductible. And no one wanted to help them… until someone did.
Enter Lindsey Swanson and Stripper Financial Planning. Her branding appeals to the practical side of clients and prospects, with a dash of humor involved. In her ThinkAdvisor interview, Swanson explains why a sex worker might be able to deduct sex toys on their taxes, comparing them to a stapler. Meanwhile her website shows an illustrated sketch of a woman chasing a dog who’s stolen a … bone.
Her boldness and impact are so significant that a major industry publication says that snubbing sex workers “could be a big missed opportunity.” Swanson herself could have missed the opportunity if she hadn’t taken a leap of faith.
“I had a history of working for traditional firms with older, retired clients that had millions of dollars. [For my own firm] I wanted to work with stigmatized folks who weren’t being served.”
More than a third of Americans between 18 and 25 have tattoos (or ink, for short). For Gen X, that number is around 40%. And yet, tattoos still have a high degree of stigma attached, which can trickle out to tattoo artists. Enter Colton Etherton.
“’Can tattoo artists afford advice?’ That’s the #1 question I get when I tell people what I do,” Etherton wrote recently on Twitter. “So let’s dispel the myth of the poor tattooer… $150/hour is the low end of prices, many are booked out for months. Talked to a few this week that made $150k last year — a year with lots of cancellations.”
By leaning into this niche, and owning it as part of his personal brand (he recently brought a photographer with him to capture his own latest tattoo) he’s creating an alternative vision for “what a financial advisor looks like.”
Driving the Shift
With every advisor that steps up owning their “non-traditional” niche, these niches become more traditional. And the face of “what an advisor looks like" starts to change along with it.
N’Jie-Konte thinks that this could help more advisors step outside of the box and into their truths. She says, “We seem to have this idea that there’s this financial advisor police that’s going to come to us and say, you know, ‘You’re no longer a financial advisor because you speak too boldly. Or you don’t speak however a financial advisor speaks,’ whatever that means.”
That results in advisors “wanting to be very stiff and buttoned-up and typical of what a financial advisor should be” and hiding the passions that are the real key to growing their businesses.
That’s one of the reasons that N’Jie-Konte is speaking at Exchange: An ETF Experience about branding. She wants to help empower advisors to identify what their real brand is. How do your passions and your clients align? What is that message, and how can you tell that story?
If enough advisors start telling their stories and talking about their clients all while wearing jeans (or at least not a suit), it may only be a matter of time before the industry overall starts to get a bit of a rebrand. And that could put us one step closer to access and advice for all.
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