Companies are betting on texting as the next wave of popular communication for advisers and their clients, waving off compliance fears for the potential to reach a younger base of clients.
Edward Jones Investments will start a program to encourage advisers to text their clients, starting in mid-December. Blueleaf, a personal financial data provider, also has a similar program in the works.
“It is really important for our clients,” said Jim Olsen, principal of marketing communications at Edward Jones. “It is particularly important to younger generations: the millennials, the younger Gen X … It is the preferred means of communication.”
The purpose of texting would be to build better relationships with clients. Stephen Boswell, chief operating officer of the adviser consulting firm Oechsli Institute, said texts are meant for keeping in touch and bringing the connection between adviser and client closer.
“If you are a financial adviser and looking to better communicate with clients and they are going more toward texts and less toward voice calls, you want to mirror that,” Mr. Boswell said.
With Edward Jones' texting program, which is now in pilot phase, advisers will be able to send pre-populated messages to their clients to remind them of upcoming appointments, as well as free-form messages for relationship building. Advisers' texts will be sent through a desktop platform, so that the firm can easily manage and archive the messages.
Advisers will not be allowed to provide investing advice, like in any other electronic communications.
Edward Jones isn't the only company trying out texting. Blueleaf, a personal financial data provider and wealth management platform, is giving their users the ability to message clients from their desktop or via mobile devices, and those messages will then be archived. The service will also be available in a few weeks, said John Prendergast, Bluefleaf's chief executive.
“If you have a more urgent message that needs to be paid attention to, texting is the only way to do that,” Mr. Prendergast said. “Obviously, there is a phone call, but it is hard to do phone calls at scale.”
Perhaps that is the way it will go, according to the August 2014 InvestmentNews Future of Advice study. About 3.6% of the advisers who responded to the survey said they currently rely on text messages to frequently contact their clients for direct, personal communication. But in five years, 8.4% of the same advisers surveyed said they will rely on text messages.
Of course, texting isn't for everyone. Both Mr. Olsen and Mr. Prendergast said advisers will get clients' approvals before sending messages.
Mr. Prendergast added advisers should keep in mind that, although texts are meant to be quick, they should take an extra moment before sending any messages.
“It is a great way to keep in touch without being overly intrusive,” according to Kathryn Hauer, founder of Wilson David Investment Advisors in Aiken, S.C. “To me, it embodies everything that is important to financial advisers. You want to make sure you give enough information to clients but not being a pain.”
She said she texts her clients just to say hello or ask if clients have any questions they would like to ask. She may also alert them if a financial analysis she completed was sent or updated.
Brian Power, a financial adviser at Gateway Advisory in Westfield, N.J., said his firm hasn't implemented a texting or archiving policy for texts yet, but he thinks it will catch on in coming years.
“[Clients] are always near their phones before they're near their computers as far as seeing emails,” Mr. Power said.