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Regulators must rethink LinkedIn lockdown

Regulators has become a misguided helicopter parent that will not let our industry mature and grow

Nov 12, 2013 @ 9:03 am

By Matthew Halloran

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If you are living in the 21st century as a business owner and a financial adviser, you spend time networking on LinkedIn.

The social network has become the place for business. If you are on it, be prepared to be solicited, because this is where online business is initiated, groomed and done.

Your profile page has to be a clear and concise explanation of who you are, what you do and what you do well. The last part is, of course, not allowed, which is ridiculous. Most of you have stripped-down and incomplete profiles because you are so afraid your broker-dealer's vague regulations on what is allowed on LinkedIn and other social media.

Some of you are just flat-out not following the rules, and have endorsements and testimonials on your profile. While I agree you should be able to have them, you cannot, and that is something I think is unfair and wrong.

Every day I log on, I am bombarded with endorsements and requests for endorsements. I love endorsements as a business person because it helps me know who likes what I do and what my network think I do well. But according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, as an adviser, you cannot accept or post endorsements on your profile because they are classified by the regulator as testimonials.

Really? Come on. How is it that if I endorse you for “investments” that it is promissory that you are getting me a great (or unreasonable) rate of return? If I endorsed you for “financial planning,” doesn't that just tell you that I believe you do it well? What is wrong with that?

Why is it that in a time when the general public needs to know who does what well is this still taboo? In fact, if you read the suggestion box for the endorsements, it says, “Does Matthew H. Have these skills or experience?” It does not say that I am the best at the categories. It just informs my network that I have experience or am skilled at the category. Most of the general public does not know what a CLU, CFP, Series 7 or 65 means. Regulators are not allowing our advisers to inform prospects what they can do for them.

It is well-known now that your prospects will go to your LinkedIn profile before they call you. If they are younger, they will even try to find you on Facebook. If your profiles and pages just have the same ridiculous, static content that is so scrubbed it hardly makes a case that you are good at anything, they will continue to try to do it themselves.

We all know what happens when uneducated people try to prepare and maintain retirement. Lawyers can have endorsements. Doctors can have endorsements. Advisers are professionals too. Why are we regulated so strongly? Is money more important that your health? Should we protect you more from running out of money in retirement than getting surgery or health care you don't need?

Regulators have become misguided helicopter parents that will not let our industry mature and grow. We have a professional duty to help those who need it badly. How can we help them? Inform them on what we do well, allowing our existing relationships to guide them, and providing those 10,000 boomers a day with the help they so desperately need.

Matthew Halloran is a certified coach for advisers. He wrote The Social Media Handbook for Financial Advisors: How to Use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to Build and Grow Your Business.

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