IFA Life, the social networking website for IFAs and financial planners is celebrating its first year online. Over 2,400 financial advisers have signed up to the website in the first twelve months, which they use as an industry hub to network, share best practice, debate key issues, raise their profile online, get marketing ideas – and to provide help and support to one another.
The IFA Life concept was the brainchild of Philip Calvert, former Head of National Accounts for Zurich Life and National Sales Manager for Permanent Insurance.
Philip Calvert said today: “Like a lot of people within Financial Services, I was a late developer when it came to the Web. But when I finally got it, I realised that the industry had a serious problem ahead if it didn’t get to grips with the Internet – particularly IFAs.
“I could see that the Internet had the potential to wipe out many financial advice firms unless the industry embraced new technologies – both as a marketing and communications tool and to drive back office processes.”
Philip Calvert continued: “Compared with other industries, there are still high numbers of IFAs who do not have a website, but in the last eighteen months there has been a noticeable step forward by IFAs in their attitude towards technology and the Internet.”
Changing consumer behaviours
IFA Life believes that the Internet is rapidly changing the way that consumers access financial advice. Many will see this as a threat to their livelihoods, though others are embracing the change as a golden opportunity to use technology in new cost-effective ways to deliver or support their service proposition and to treat customers fairly.
A key area which financial advisers need to address is their ‘online reputation’. As more and more consumers use online forums and social networking websites to find IFAs and to comment on their services, financial advisers need to learn how to use the tools available on such sites so that consumers can get a sense of their expertise and professional credibility.
Philip Calvert added: “We deliberately set out to use social networking technology to engage IFAs, and it’s great to see how quickly they have embraced it. What has been an added bonus is that IFAs, financial planners and their equivalents from twelve separate countries are using the site and we’re seeing genuine sharing of best practice across international borders. Despite regulatory differences around the world, I’m certain this will become more and more important over the coming months and years. ”
The IFA Life forum has become a buzz of activity for IFAs throughout the industry, and there are certain topics which they return to regularly, including:
• Commission versus fees
• Professionalism and qualifications
• Back office and productivity technology
• Investment processes
• Life Planning models
• Provider service
• Active versus active management
One of the most popular areas of the website is the Exams Forum, where IFAs studying towards professional qualifications are accessing and sharing a wealth of tips, advice and best practice.
Technology is becoming more important within the financial advice profession every day – in particular:
• How consumers use it to find IFAs, financial planners and financial information
• How IFAs and Providers use it to engage with and to listen to clients, consumers and intermediaries
• How the industry uses it to communicate, network and share best practice
Technology such as IFA Life is also making it easier and faster than ever before for IFAs and financial planners to share best practice without having to leave their offices.
Philip Calvert concluded: “We’ve worked hard to give IFAs something of real value. Sometimes we push the boundaries of what they find comfortable with technology, but it’s been very exciting to see many of them embracing sites like IFA Life and cutting edge tools such as Twitter as a natural part of their day-to-day business activities.
“As for the future – we intend to stay at the forefront of IFA networking by continuing to roll out tools to make IFAs’ lives easier and by facilitating the sharing of best practice throughout the industry. IFAs can expect some surprises over the coming months.”
IFA Life’s first conference Social Media in Financial Services takes place in January 2010, when IFAs and providers alike can discuss and debate the benefits of social media and Internet marketing within the industry. Speakers from Google, the BBC, Ecademy and BT Tradespace have been confirmed.
See the conference website at http://www.ifalife.com/socialmediaFS
About IFA Life
IFA Life is an award-winning* online business and social networking website dedicated to IFAs, Mortgage Brokers, Financial Planners, Financial Life Planners and Wealth Managers. IFAs join IFA Life to share best practice, debate industry issues, share resources, get marketing help, provide support to one another and find business development ideas.