With daily Internet usage in the UK increasing year on year by 22% , there are strong adoption rates among older and more affluent demographics – key markets for the IFA community.
According to a new White Paper published by Google, searches on financial related terms are growing consistently and increased 19% year on year in 2009 , as users embraced the Internet as a medium for their financial research. With 30% of adult Internet users earning household income of more than £50,000  this is a market IFAs should be aiming to capture.
Financial advice searches have grown strongly in the last 18 months – the search term ‘unbiased financial advice’ had 84% more queries in February 2010 than in February 2008 . As the Internet becomes an integral and even primary component of financial planning, companies with a strong online presence offering products or advice are benefiting hugely from the growing demand, whilst those who continue to rely solely on traditional sources of leads such as word of mouth and directories risk falling behind.
Whilst query volumes have increased, the majority of IFAs have failed to step up their Internet presence, either through maintaining a healthy website or through promoting themselves with online advertising. It is vital for IFAs not only to have a good website, but to use all means possible to drive potential leads to find that website. Many IFAs are failing on one or both of these steps, meaning that online consumers are not finding them. IFAs are missing out on business, as potential customers are forced to look to other online sources of advice which are only a click away.
In recent years and with shaken consumer confidence in traditional financial establishments, many new online businesses have become popular sources of advice, with comparison sites like Moneysupermarket.com and forums such as Moneysavingexpert.com benefiting from the preference for independent online advice and information. This consumer behaviour gives online IFAs a great opportunity to gain consumer trust and build their businesses online.
Philip Calvert, founder of IFA Life and an Internet marketing expert for IFAs said today:
“It’s great news that consumers of all demographics are taking control of their personal finances. Because the Internet is now part of people’s lives, it’s not surprising that they increasingly use search to find financial help and advice.”
“What’s not such good news however, is that IFAs are missing out on a wealth of opportunity online, and risk becoming increasingly sidelined in the online world if consumers cannot find them in searches.”
Wealth management is a big opportunity for IFAs online
Despite scepticism amongst many IFAs that older, high net worth (HNW) individuals use the Internet as part of their financial research, studies indicate that HNWs do increasingly use the Internet and are using search as an alternative research tool for managing their wealth.
Ian Morgan, Head of Finance at Google UK said today:
“This market represents a real opportunity for financial planners online because queries in this sector have grown strongly over the last few years – yet the lack of advertising by IFAs to this market means that they are missing out on valuable leads.”
“We want to offer more support to IFAs looking to grow their business through effective use of search marketing. Our aim with our White Paper and forthcoming webinar is to offer an educational starting point to these financial advisors. Consumers are looking for guidance in their wealth management and we believe that the Internet can play an important role in helping them find the appropriate support.”
IFAs who have embraced the Internet are seeing positive results. Tina Weeks, owner of Serenity Financial Planning in North London said today:
“It’s unimaginable that any IFA firm could even survive today without the Internet. It’s now an essential part of our lives and the lives of our clients, so it’s vital that we keep on top of all the different ways that it can be used and build value in our business whilst adding value to clients. I also recommend that every IFA puts time aside regularly to get trained on Internet marketing.”
Keith Churchouse of Churchouse Financial Planning in Guildford added:
“Economies of scale help us as financial planners to diversify our marketing message using the Internet and the accessible and cost efficient tools available. Blogger.com is an excellent example, allowing us to distribute topical issues electronically as well as our own website and where appropriate, podcasts. Additional news can also be distributed by the use of social media which we use regularly.”
Google’s White Paper IFAs in the Digital Space is available now through IFA Life for an exclusive period at http://www.ifalife.com/GoogleIFApaper and their educational webinar will be available to download from the 1st July. The webinar is hosted by Google’s Finance team and will include demonstrations of how to use Google’s free online resources to identify and benefit from the online opportunity, as well as tips for getting started on AdWords.
Google will be offering an AdWords voucher to IFAs trying AdWords for the first time, available via email.
Sources: Google internal  Nielson December 2009  Google internal  eMarketer – comScore Media Matrix, Oct 2009  Google internal