Nick Stuller, founder of MyPerfectFinancialAdvisor.com (MPFA), was an entrepreneur in the digital space before it was called the “digital space.” As CEO of the two largest financial advisor database companies in the 2000s, Discovery Data and Meridian-IQ, he led the data-gathering teams that provided the deep data on two million U.S. financial and insurance advisors that institutions counted on to build their businesses. In his latest venture, Nick says he’s building “a kind of eharmony matchmaking service for investors to find their ‘Perfect Advisor’.”
Recently, Jeanie and Nick got together to talk about what asset managers can do to support the service needs of advisors and clients as an increasingly vaccinated marketplace begins to contemplate its post-COVID-19 future.
We have advisors from every state and from every type of firm subscribing on the MPFA platform. Each individual advisor pays a flat subscription fee of $995 to get matched to consumers who are a good fit for them. Investors of course sign up for free.
You’ve compared MPFA to a dating service. How so?
It’s actually similar to eharmony – and different from Match.com. Our system doesn’t ask about what characteristics individuals are looking for. Instead, we ask them questions about themselves before suggesting which advisor might be a perfect match.
Once you differentiate investors by personality, life stage, asset size and experience, you’re on your way to a perfect match. As an RIA firm ourselves, we can tell the investor “we think you should hire this advisor.” Our website is filled with articles, ideas and information from the advisors themselves to gain additional exposure through old-fashioned marketing.
How do you match clients with an advisor?
Our proprietary algorithm differentiates both groups independently first before identifying a match. There are dozens of data points that distinguish each person by age, personality, life stage, asset size and more.
Our goal is to provide each advisor with six prospects that are a fit for their particular skills.
Can you share a couple of examples?
Sure. Our system would avoid matching a total introvert with a total extrovert. We use the IBM Watson system to identify each individual’s dominant personality attributes based on their written responses.
Here’s another: One of our advisors is in her twenties and has no widows as clients. If an investor self-qualifies as a widow, we wouldn’t recommend that advisor as a match. There are two big obstacles– age and experience– which translate into too little affinity to make the relationship work.
THREE BEHAVIORS EVERY ADVISOR WANTS FROM ASSET MANAGERS
- “Get hyper-specific with me”:
Advisors need clearly directed sales tutorials on how to relate to customers on a business-to-business level. “Tell them the specific actions they need to grow,” says Nick Stuller. “Specific communications helps too,” he adds. “Providing the granular content to advisors that their clients really want is a proven route to better relationships.”
- “Dial back the market research”:
Advisors have little time to wade through mounds of research to amp up their ability as marketers. Nick suggests this rule of thumb for asset managers: For every market research concept shared, “suggest four hyper-specific actions the advisor can take to build their business in the short term.”
- “Help me get over myself”:
Many of the advisors Nick speaks with mistake bashing the competition for customer service. “They require a lot of help in overcoming being sanctimonious,” says Nick. “Too many act like their philosophy is the only one in the world.” Asset managers can help them view themselves in fresh ways and with total self-honesty. “The key is learning to treat each client like a business partner who needs the advisor’s recommendations to achieve specific goals.”
How specific should advisors get in their prospecting? Do some niches get pretty narrow?
You’re exactly right. Here’s an example that was so narrow we had to check because we thought the advisor made a mistake filling out the form. The data showed that he only catered to divorced women who were formerly married to professional basketball players.
My initial response was that he botched his profile. It turned out the advisor had 90 female clients averaging $2 million in AUM that fit this niche. If anyone divorced an NBA player, this advisor would be their guy.
What suggestions would you have, Nick, for asset managers looking to provide financial advisors with best practices to address their pain points and help them build their businesses in 2021?
I speak with financial advisors almost every day. They range in asset size from up-and-coming millennials to books in the billions. My advisors come from RIAs, major wirehouses and independent broker-dealers. They reside in every one of the 50 states.
Every advisor I know wants three things from asset managers. Number one is to get hyper-specific about the actions they need to take to grow. Some asset managers are getting this message.
Number two may sound counterintuitive: They want less market research. Why? They have no time to be marketers. They are four times more likely to respond favorably to asset managers who provide them with specific guidance.
"Advisors have no time to be marketers. They are four times more likely to respond favorably to asset managers who provide them with specific guidance."
We see that too. When we create practice management programs, it always comes down to “show me how to incorporate these ideas into my day-to-day practice.”
That’s right. But to make that guidance work, advisors need number three: Encouragement to look at themselves and be totally honest about what they’re doing with clients. Truth telling too has been exacerbated by the pandemic and yet many if not most advisors are still employing the same old business model that begins, “Let me tell you why I’m better than the competition.” Advisors would benefit hugely from practice management programs that would get them out of this trap – to thinking about what their clients need first. Too many treat cold-calling and hot leads the same way.
What could help with that?
They need very specific sales tutorials on how to relate to customers on a business-to-business level. They require help in overcoming being sanctimonious, in thinking “my kind of philosophy is the only one in the world.”
What are some of the traits that are best for advisors? Is there a secret sauce?
I think there is. Those who act like they have a business that happens to be in the financial advice industry do very well. Cold-calling has been dead for a long time. Providing content people want and being found is today’s route to new clients.
Those advisors with attractive, ergonomic, up-to-date websites, who have the courage to be subject matter experts and share the information they know without fear, are the professionals who will do very well in our new social, digital world.