When Nick Stuller was a financial adviser in the 1980s, he relied on cold calls and his reputation in the community to attract new business.
Now, it's more difficult for advisers, he said.
“It was a different era,” he said. “As a young adviser back then, it was very different.”
Enter AdviceIQ, the business launched by Mr. Stuller and his team a year and a half ago. The site currently features profiles and rankings of about 2,600 financial advisers from 27 broker-dealer firms, detailing their assets under management, client characteristics, mission and contact information. It couples that with a blend of fact-checked articles written by financial advisers that are syndicated daily to 12 media sites, including Morningstar, The Motley Fool and Forbes.
Within the next year, Mr. Stuller, AdviceIQ's CEO, said the company aims to build its client base to 7,000 advisers, bring on an additional 25 media syndication partners and increase the number of articles it publishes daily from three to 10.
Creating a profile on the site costs an adviser's firm $1,000 a year. For the moment, Mr. Stuller said the emphasis of the website is on helping advisers create a digital brand and increase their online presence, rather than generating leads.
“Investors have never had an objective place to learn about advisers,” he said. “On the adviser side, they have a hard time getting their name out in a way that is compliant and doesn't break the bank.”
Other sites with similar functions include BrightScope and WalletHub.
Eve Kaplan, owner of Kaplan Financial Advisors, is one adviser who is using the site to get her name in front of more potential clients by writing for it. She also continues to write financial advice stories for her local newspaper in New Jersey, which helps her attract older clients, and spends time writing for other online platforms. These outlets are another way advisers can reach the public, although it can be difficult to track the amount of traction her online stories gain, she said.
“There is this whole idea that if you're out there on the Internet, people will find you,” she said. “Sometimes I think it's true, sometimes it's not … I don't think it's hard to get your name out there. Whether it's actually given any attention, that's hard to say.”
Jason Lina, lead adviser at the Resource Planning Group, said he has known about AdviceIQ since it launched and began utilizing his profile and writing for the website about six months ago. So far, he's had three articles published on topics related to the new health care laws. He said he hasn't checked his firm's website analytics to see if his posts have helped generate traffic, but he suspects that they have.
“You didn't see my name on Morningstar every day before that,” he said. “Websites like this, the idea is that they help advisers differentiate and help clear up what would otherwise be a murky market.”
To get a profile on AdviceIQ, advisers first are checked against four regulatory agencies — the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc., the Securities and Exchange Commission, state regulatory bodies and local insurance commissions. If any complaints have been lodged against them, they aren't accepted. Once they have a profile, advisers can feature information such as their clients' occupations, gender and income and asset ranges. AdviceIQ narrows its selections by geography; potential clients see advisers within 50 miles of them.
Mr. Stuller said he is troubled by the number of people who don't use financial advisers and hopes his site helps build adviser credibility and access.
“It's a fundamentally flawed thought that you can go completely alone” with investing, he said.