Oppenheimer’s Joan Khoury: Employee FAs Benefit from Backing of Well-Established Firm Brands

Seasoned Wealth Management CMO Also Discusses Latest Digital Marketing Solutions and Trends for More Effective Storytelling by Financial Advisors

Janeesa Hollingshead, Senior Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

In recent months, it has become common to hear the same refrain from third party recruiters and in-house executives across the independent wealth management channel:  Expect W-2 employee financial advisors to go independent in ever-larger waves of departures.

According to these sources, wirehouse advisors increasingly question the value of contributing to significant corporate overhead for resources they haven’t been using throughout most of the pandemic – With commercial real estate cited that is seldom used frequently cited as a major example.

But how accurate is this perspective, really?  In a recent WSR survey of wirehouse financial advisors, concluded last month, sentiments about making the leap from the W-2 to independent channel appear to be much more complex.  Consider just a few of the survey highlights:

  • 86% of wirehouse advisors believe the immediate brand recognition of their firms contribute directly to their ability to more effectively develop new client relationships
  • 72% of the respondents have less confidence in the technology solutions offered by the independent channel versus what is available in the wirehouse segment
  • 77% of wirehouse advisors view the extensive economic and market research resources available to them as superior to what is on offer at most independent channel firms, as well as a mission critical tool for engaging with existing and prospective clients 

Here’s the bottom line:  Wirehouse advisors largely appreciate the resources their firms offer that go far beyond just office space, especially with respect to the power of their firms’ brand.

To better understand why, WSR recently connected with Joan Khoury, Chief Marketing Officer of Oppenheimer & Company, Inc. to discuss the enduring power of being backed by a truly national brand, as well as the latest digital marketing strategies and solutions that have emerged during the pandemic…but are likely here to stay for the long run.

A seasoned wealth management CMO with past senior marketing roles across major wirehouses (such as Merrill Lynch) and independent firms (including LPL Financial), Khoury at Oppenheimer supports over 1,000 financial advisors with more than $117 billion in client assets.

WSR:  How important is it to have the backing of a brand name? And why or why not? 

Khoury:  The relationships advisors build with clients must start somewhere, and an influential, respected and highly valued brand will always open doors to new business. 

Not only are brands the best way to set expectations and communicate something identifiable, but they also make it easier for advisors to articulate the unique attributes of their practice, including its purpose and value proposition. 

That said, within financial services, the approach to building a brand has clearly changed. Now it’s about using multiple platforms to tell stories about your culture, beliefs and people, a clear break from the past when campaigns were built around a big creative idea and deployed around just a few traditional channels – namely print, cable TV and early forms of digital. Now, social media and other forms of digital delivery have surpassed both in effectiveness and efficiency. 

According to an industry study, marketers leverage more than seven channels per campaign. As marketers, we also operate more like a newsroom and provide content curation that go from being an idea to a final draft in the scope of just a few hours.  

Given the proliferation of storytelling tools, brands must leverage different mediums if they want to be effective and authentic. In my view, none of that can be done without a well-established and respected brand name.

WSR:  What are some of the key trends and tools that have emerged in recent years that have boosted advisor marketing? 

Khoury:  The first one that comes to mind is podcasts. Exploding in popularity even before the pandemic, podcasting has become a major communications medium for our industry over the past 18 months. I read a survey recently: An estimated 100 million people listened to a podcast each month in 2020, with audiences expected to reach 125 million by the end of next year. 

We launched “Let’s Talk Future” during the height of the pandemic to connect with our clients we usually would have seen in person. We recently celebrated our first anniversary of the show and plan to continue the podcast even after governments lift all COVID-19 restrictions. We are proud to say that we have published over 24 episodes and have about 10,000 downloads, and we’ve just gotten started.

Additionally, like most everyone else, our live events have shifted to a hybrid, in-person model. Much to our surprise, this change was not only accepted, it was welcomed as a more accessible, lower-cost way to connect and learn together. Now, industry leaders must find the right balance between establishing in-person touch points and the continuation of virtual meetings that save time and money.

WSR:  What are the key differences and similarities in working with independent contractors and employee advisors? 

Khoury:  As a marketing and communications leader, I have worked with both independent and employee advisors. The only real difference is how you engage with each one. 

The work is almost project-based with independent contractors, with a clear beginning and an end to each job. On the other hand, working with employee advisors is more of an ongoing process. 

We get nowhere unless our team wins!

Beyond that, as long as you have the right internal team in place – which, to me, is a small, hardworking and intellectually curious group with a wide array of skills – you can solve any problem that comes up. 

WSR:  On the personal front, what was the biggest thing you learned from the pandemic and its fallout? 

Khoury:  Throughout the stay-at-home orders, I became much more intentional in how I spent my time. In the past, I had so many competing demands on how my time was used and allocated, even as it might be our most precious resource. 

Work-Life “Balanced”

As we started blurring the lines of work and personal time in these past 18 months, I found that I had a considerable measure of control of how and with whom I spent time.

During these periods of isolation, I needed a way to mark the passage of time, especially as office and family life rituals changed so suddenly. Much like an asset allocation model – it was essential to allocate for work, family, exercise, sleep, creativity, learning and self-care. 

Joan Khoury, CMO, Oppenheimer & Co.

Even if doing so felt antithetical in our regular lives, I enjoyed slowing down to listen to and spending time with the people who mattered most to me. 

As we get back to a more traditional separation of home and work lives, I hope to put these lessons to good use as we develop our post-pandemic schedules.

Janeesa Hollingshead, Senior Editor of Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached via editor@wealthsolutionsreport.com

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