mssb.htm" title="http://topics.investmentnews.com/companies-and-associations/morgan-stanley-smith-barney-mssb.htm">Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, the largest wealth management firm in the country, has given its more than 17,000 financial advisers clearance to start using social-media networks.
“The challenge now is getting the advisers to adopt the tools,” said Lauren Boyman, director of digital strategy and content at MSSB. “It takes some time to work them into your daily routine, but there's a lot of excitement about this in the firm.”
MSSB has been an early adopter among the wirehouses when it comes to social media. Last summer, it launched a pilot program that gave 600 advisers at the firm full access to the LinkedIn network and partial access to Twitter. Advisers could use the LinkedIn network as they wished and could tweet material pre-approved by the firm or submit their own tweets for approval. The firm does not yet allow advisers to use Facebook.
As a group, the Wall Street firms have been reluctant to let their advisers prospect for new clients and serve existing ones through social-media channels. While regulators have suggested that they would treat interactions over social-media networks as they do other forms of communications with customers and potential clients, the wirehouses have been wary of the potential risk to reputation that friending, tweeting and linking might pose for them.
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“We had to make sure all the risk and compliance aspects of this were taken care of, but the pilot program has basically been scaled up for the rest of our advisers,” Ms. Boyman said. Results from the nearly year-long pilot program were encouraging, with 27% of the participating advisers saying they had landed new clients through LinkedIn, she said. Some 90% said they had expanded their networks or identified new prospects through social media. “I'm hopeful that we'll see strong adoption by the rest of the advisers,” Ms. Boyman said.
The move is a big one for MSSB and for the wealth management industry as a whole, says April Rudin, chief executive of the Rudin Group, a wealth management marketing firm. “We're moving from the Flintstones to the Jetsons. The more comfortable advisers get using these platforms the better,” she said. “Morgan Stanley is giving them the tools, and it will be up to the advisers whether they use them.”