Equifax: A Teachable Micro-Moment for Advisors

Sep 21, 2017


By now you’ve heard about the data breach at Equifax.  From the looks of it over 140 million consumers may have had their social security numbers, addresses and other information hacked.  The press reports about the breach and its ramifications – on the general public and for the company – are non-stop.  In typical media fashion, many headlines are designed to peak interest via scare tactics. It seems everyone was talking about it, but what did you/your firm do about it?

  • In this micro-moment did you and your firm rise to the occasion to reassure or help educate your clients?
  • Were you quick, proactive and calming?
  • Were you ready with a plan of action?

Or did you miss out on a great opportunity to engage with your clients, and maybe even a prospect or two? In today’s post I want to talk about micro-moments and how to capitalize on them in a positive way.  Let’s use this as a teachable moment.

What is a micro-moment?

The client journey has changed from semi-annual face-to-face meetings for plan and goals reviews, or a written quarterly newsletter with commentary, to now hundreds of real-time, incident-driven moments. These moments, because they come and go so quickly are called “micro-moments”, and are critical in shaping your clients’ decisions and preferences.  They demand immediate action, but more importantly they have to be relevant to stand out and engage the client.  Living in a digital world, where your clients expect digital interaction, means we can’t wait two or three weeks to provide meaningful information. Too long a pause, the opportunity is lost, the moment has passed or worse, the client has gotten their information somewhere else.

Seize the (micro) moment.

Let me share with you some examples of firms that engaged with their clients in real time. The clock began ticking on Thursday, September 7 when Equifax announced the breach in a press release.

  • Friday (9/8) – A platform provider sent an email to all its advisor clients that the breach had NO IMPACT to their advisors or end-clients on that platform. (Ok, it was SEI.)  The note warned advisors and their clients to protect themselves against phishing schemes that increase during major news stories – hackers take advantage of curiosity to entice recipients to give up information. It also provided links to the data and information security for all accounts on the platform.
  • Friday (9/8) – A registered investment advisory firm sent an email to clients outlining the news item and then current information about the leak.  Included were pertinent links to the site set up by Equifax for consumers to check their status. That email also assured clients that no distributions could be made out of their accounts to a third party (unless previous instructions were on file) without verbal communication and authentication. This well thought-out email stressed personal relationships between this advisor and clients, something that an automated advisor or 800 number advisors couldn’t do.
  • Tuesday (9/12) – A broker dealer affiliated advisor posted to his blog a great article about the breach. The post also provided a one-stop guide for his clients, including how to monitor and even freeze their credit accounts. This showed his clients that the advisor empathizes with the initial confusion and worry of this story. It was also an opportunity to target his ideal clients in a way that emails and letters do not.  The advice was action-oriented, specific, and helped answer all the questions his clients could have.

Last week I spoke at 3 different conferences.  At each, I asked how many advisors in the room had taken advantage of the Equifax hack to engage with their clients. Out of the 200 or so advisors only four hands went up.  To me that is 196 missed opportunities.  Think about that.  Assume for a minute that the average advisor has about 150 families as clients. That’s 29,400 families who didn’t hear from their advisor or went somewhere else for information.  About 29,400 families that would have forwarded YOUR information to their friends, other family members and co-workers who were also wondering how they were affected by the breach. They also went elsewhere for advice and information.

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Teachable moment

While this micro-moment has passed, you should prepare for the next one.  How do you make sure you don’t miss out on the next opportunity?   Start by:

  • Building your list.  If you don’t regularly use a platform where you can publish new content, start by building email distribution lists of your clients. Think about segmenting lists based on themes such as: financial market updates (i.e. volatility or scandals), legislative and tax updates or health care concerns.  You can always merge lists if the next breaking story is universal. Use client personas to hone in on what may be important to your clients as the more targeted the information the better.
  • Put a SWAT team together now.  Determine who will be responsible for which tasks during a fast-moving story. For example who will write and edit the post/email, who in compliance will review?  In fact, if you have to interact with a compliance department, discuss with them now what their requirements are for a very quick turnaround.
  • Be on the lookout.  There is no excuse for not keeping up on national or even the local news, but the key is to think about the story in the mindset of your clients. Be on the lookout for those opportunities to be of value. What are your clients thinking right now? Do they know how it affects them?  My personal rule of thumb is that if one client asks you a question, three are wondering but didn’t ask.  If three clients ask, all of your clients are wondering.  Pay attention.
  • Be useful.  Don’t regurgitate the news.  Don’t just send a copy of someone else’s work, put your spin on the news. Make it relevant to the audience: What does Client Persona A want to know about the event? What should they do? What have you done?  How does it affect your relationship?
  • Make it direct.  This is not necessarily a marketing piece (although it will be used that way).  Write to your clients. Show them that you know them and their needs. It may get passed to others but the tone and style should reflect how you interact with your most precious asset – your clients.

Relevant micro-moments may happen a few times a year, but reacting to and sharing them in a helpful way is critical to engaging and building loyalty in your client base.  Most of us would agree that our real job is planning and behavior management.  By keeping an eye on what clients are concerned about and providing topical, useful and immediate information you can control client reactions (behavior) as well as build a stronger relationship.

Ready for the next micro-moment?

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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