Michael Kitces #FinTech

LinkedFA responds

Apr 16, 2010 @ 5:33 pm

By Davis D. Janowski

My post the other day on LinkedFA didn't go unanswered . I just received a very civil response from LinkedFA chief executive officer Jason Bishara and am posting it here with the permission of the site's chief marketing officer John Bishara.

One quick note: The statement I made about LinkedFA ultimately charging for services was a mistake based on not having re-read my notes carefully enough. That erroneous statement was based on my interview with then chief executive Brian Byrne back in January.

“At this time it will be free for investors and FAs and probably for recruiters though there will probably be a fee for advertising,” he said.

The rest of this post is by Jason Bishara:

“Inquiring Reporters Want to Know, “What's the Value of linkedFA?””

This week's blog is in direct response to Davis D. Janowski's April 14th review of linkedFA on InvestmentNews.com. First and foremost, I'd like to thank Mr. Janowski for taking the time to provide unbiased constructive feedback. I'm hoping his example inspires others to do the same. After all, good feedback is essential to our mission of building a collaborative community based on the direct needs of financial professionals and their investors. I'd also like to thank him for his compliments regarding our interface design.

Is linkedFA truly Social?

Unfortunately, that's where the compliments ended as Janowski immediately questioned the value of linkedFA to financial advisors by saying - “there doesn't seem to be much social about it.” He also made the statement - “you don't see who else is online, or suggestions of whom you should link with.”

Mr. Janowski's criticism is not entirely unfounded. In fact, based on user feedback (not just Janowski's), we have already made many networking improvements slated for release in the coming months. Please keep in mind we are still in beta and progressing quickly.

However, I'd like to note that linkedFA's networking business rules are deliberately more stringent than typical social media sites. linkedFA is strictly business, and privacy is one of our major concerns. For example, financial advisors can neither see other FA's clients' real names, nor contact them. This prevents client poaching. Also, financial advisors cannot search for investors that are not in their own network to prevent non-compliant solicitation, and to protect the privacy of investors. We admit there is room for improvement, but we are not trying to be another Facebook. The real value of linkedFA is in providing a more collaborative and frequent method for financial advisors to communicate with their current clients that is more private and secure than sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Network building can be achieved by inviting prospects and via referrals.

Why Upload My Contacts?

The journalist also questioned why he should build a new network in addition to LinkedIn and Facebook. Just as Mr. Janowski feels there is good reason for having both a LinkedIn network AND a Facebook network, we have proven there is a huge demand for a niche-specific network that meets compliance and privacy needs of financial professionals. Personally, I do not want my high school acquaintances on Facebook or my business contacts on linkedIn to have access to my investment communications.

In a financial setting, completely open social networking can lead to rampant and unwanted solicitation, so we want to tread carefully and responsibly. To start, we believe it is best for financial professionals to use linkedFA as a communication tool that will help them understand and serve their clients better. linkedFA should be considered a semi-private, invitation-only network.

Compliance Guarantee

Since linkedFA's inception, compliance has been considered a cornerstone of the site's development, and we stand behind that with our guarantee. Mr. Janowski pointed out that he was unaware of “any fines levied by FINRA or the SEC in relation to social networking yet.” Well, the key word is “yet”. FINRA issued social media compliance guidelines specifically referring to document retention (10-06) earlier this year. I don't know of any financial advisors that want to be fined by FINRA for document retention infractions with regards to social networking. There are plenty of examples of FINRA fining firms seven-figure sums for improper document retention, including, but not limited to, email. In fact, in 2007 FINRA fined four Fidelity-Affiliated Broker-Dealers a total of $3.75 million in part due to email retention infractions. As per the new FINRA social media guidelines (10-06) issued earlier this year, social media communications are subject to similar retention regulations and fines. We urge financial professionals to protect themselves.

How Much Does linkedFA Cost?

I would like to make a clear correction. Mr. Janowski claimed that linkedFA intends to charge fees as soon as we are out of beta. This is NOT true. We are exploring several revenue models, some which may include charges for premium services, but linkedFA will remain free to financial advisors and investors post beta.

Thanks Again, Please Continue.

In closing, Mr. Janowski encouraged current linkedFA users to comment, and so do we. Remember, we are building linkedFA for financial professionals, and we want your feedback in order to serve you better. Please use the “Feedback” button on the top right of every page of our site once you log in. Thank you again Davis. I truly appreciate your candor. We'll keep you posted with future advancements.”

Here's a link directly to this entry at LinkedFA as well.

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