If the new way of doing business for financial advisors is at the intersection of the latest digital marketing technology and good, old-fashioned client service, Brandon Silbermann might just be the advisor of the future.
A typical day for Silbermann might include updating his practice’s website, checking his LinkedIn account and driving to a client’s farm to discuss his or her financial plan.
Silbermann, 25, is an advisor with Don Stockman Financial Services Ltd. in Waterloo, Ont., which is affiliated with Oakville, Ont.-based Manulife Securities Investment Services Inc. He officially joined the investment industry full-time in 2013 after graduating from the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, from which he obtained an honours bachelor of commerce degree in finance.
But back in 2013, Silbermann already was familiar with financial advisory work, having been involved in his school’s co-operative education program, through which he was mentored by Don Stockman, advisor and founder of Stockman Financial.
Silbermann now is an advisor with that practice with his own book of business, consisting of $22 million in assets under management. He is licensed to sell mutual funds, which are offered through Manulife Securities, and insurance products, through Kitchener, Ont.-based Financial Horizons Inc.
Silbermann has learned many lessons from Stockman, who has been an advisor for more than 30 years in the Waterloo region. These lessons include key steps in maintaining strong relationships with clients. “Don always told me to do the right thing,” Silbermann says. “Take good care of the client. Make sure you see them face to face.”
Silbermann brought to the established practice some special knowledge that is characteristic of his age group. He took on the large task of creating an online brand for the practice, which did not have a website prior to Silbermann joining the firm.
This digital branding initiative included creating a website with the help of a third-party digital-marketing company that works with Manulife. The Stockman Financial website would allow Stockman and Silbermann to communicate their skills and experience to families and small-business owners, such as farmers and skilled tradespeople in the construction industry, who are an important part of Stockman Financial’s niche.
“We have three or four generations of some [client] families,” Silbermann says. But the firm needed a way to communicate its expertise to other clients and prospects: not only an online presence, but one that stays up to date.
Silbermann ensures that the website’s functionality fits the ways in which people use technology. “The majority of web searches are done through smartphones,” he says, his empty hands gesturing as if scrolling through a smartphone screen. “So, it was critical for us to have something that is mobile-compatible so that people could see it – so it looked nice on their phones and was easily searchable.”
Silbermann is active on LinkedIn, connecting with other professionals on that social media network. He does not network through Facebook or Twitter, but he is planning to join Manulife’s social media program for advisors, which will guide Silbermann in using Twitter in a compliant manner.
Silbermann’s digital strategy seems to be working just fine. He added three new clients through his use of LinkedIn in 2015.
Silbermann does not spend much time pursuing prospects online, aside from sending out LinkedIn invitations to connect with other professionals. He finds that fellow LinkedIn users will check out his profile, then ask him questions through that social-media network. But those conversations do not remain online for long, as Silbermann’s strategy is to meet prospects in person as soon as possible.
“As much as the world is digital,” Silbermann says, “you need to put a face to a name, especially in a business that is as private and important as money.”
That principle has Silbermann convinced that robo-advisory services, which are becoming increasingly well known, are not a serious competitor. These online services cannot provide that human connection that is important to both Silbermann and Stockman, the latter of whom always emphasizes the importance of seeing clients in person, even if that means driving to the farmhouse of a client who lives outside of the immediate Waterloo area.
“Being able to be there with these people, their farming families and companies, generates a whole other level of trust, integrity and rapport,” Silbermann says. “It does not concern me how the industry is changing.”
Silbermann also is confident that his age is not an obstacle in attracting new clients. The keys, he says, are to associate yourself with a successful brand, then develop a positive relationship with individuals who can speak on your behalf. The affiliation with Manulife, which has a visible presence in the Waterloo region, and to Stockman work to Silbermann’s benefit. Once he builds trust with young clients, he can appeal to their parents.
Silbermann’s office acts as a showcase for his clients’ skills. The flooring, which looks like reclaimed barnwood and is symbolic of Waterloo’s farming tradition, was installed by a client. A painting of bright yellow construction machinery set against a skyline of tall buildings, created by a client’s son, was commissioned by Silbermann; the painting represents the type of hard-working individuals who make up an important part of Silbermann’s client base.
Silbermann also speaks to university students about entrepreneurship on his own time. One of his goals is to help his alma mater grow its investment club. He is an avid reader of books on business, technology and foreign policy. He also is working toward a certified financial planner designation.
BUILD TRUST WITH YOUR CLIENTS
Millennial-generation financial advisors should consider both traditional and digital methods to establish a strong rapport with clients and prospects, according to Brandon Silbermann, an advisor with Don Stockman Financial Services Ltd. in Waterloo, Ont. Silbermann offers the following tips to help young advisors get off to a good start:
1. Develop a mobile-friendly website
A strong online brand can help you connect with prospects and show what they can expect regarding your skills and the services you would provide as their advisor. Because a growing proportion of online searches are conducted on mobile devices, your content must be easily viewed on smartphones and tablets.
2. Be honest
Taking a direct approach with clients about fees, products and other issues will help young advisors build trust with clients of all ages, Silbermann says.
3. Connect with established brands
Joining a large firm with a positive reputation or the practice of an experienced and trusted senior advisor can help you build trust.
Working with a known entity also provides instant credibility, says Silbermann: “It helps you get over the initial hurdles of being a younger person in the industry and managing money professionally.”
4. Build a network of mentors
Consider the type of business you want to run in the future and look for professionals in various industries who fit your vision. Silbermann has four mentors, each works in heavy construction, group benefits or portfolio management. And don’t be nervous about approaching established professionals. “If you have a good connection with them, they will share a lot about how they got to where they are.”
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