Will the City of London break its social media gagging order?

As is so often the case in social media, we can only predict what will happen in the UK by glancing at our adventurous cousins in the US. There, the financial services sector has just bravely dipped another toe into the choppy and unsure waters of social media in the face of draconian regulation. Until now, many of the big investment firms have imposed a blanket ban on their advisers and brokers using social networks for work, so unsettled are they by the threats of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra). A brave few, including Merill Lynch and Wells Fargo, allow their advisers to create social media profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter for private communications, including invitations, introductions and private messages related to work. This means they can talk with social media-savvy clients in a way that suits those consumers – but privately. However, in a rather intriguing development last week, Morgan Stanley told its 18,000 advisers they’d now be allowed to start sending out public messages relating to market updates, economic and investment insights and wealth management topics. That’s right, they’re now allowed to start tweeting about work and what they do. But there are strings attached: the messages all have to have gone through prior compliance approval. Yep, that means they’ll be prepared for general use by no-one in particular for no-one in particular to serve up to no-one in particular, a bit like a loaf of bread in a supermarket. I realise all of this sounds faintly ludicrous in a space that demands authenticity and spontaneity – but hear me out; it’s a positive step. The...

Five social media IFAs

When George Emsden was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2007, his instinct was to keep it to himself. Four years later he is one of Twitter’s best-known Independent Financial Advisers and his online identity “CancerIFA” could barely be more stark. Time for a celebratory cup of tea. The story of how George defied his inhibitions to find catharsis in speaking about his illness is an inspiration in itself – but another absorbing aspect of this tale is untold. You see, George is a case in point about how the Internet has changed the way the world does business. Social networks have allowed people all over the planet with niche – but common – interests to connect as never before. For businesses with a specialism, this is a golden opportunity. Imagine, if you will, a Runcorn-based record shop specialising in 1930s Romanian folk. Ten years ago, with a potential customer-base of probably somewhere around none in that town, there would not have been any business. Now it’s possible to connect to the few thousand dotted around the world’s seven continents who love pre-war Romanian folk – and to build a business by selling regularly to, say, a tenth of them every year. We live in a global economy of niches – marketing wonks call it The Long Tail – and for financial services, this means being able to target specific markets in ways that never previously existed. This is exactly what George is doing. He is one of the few people in the country with the personal experience and the professional expertise to help people take care of their money issues after a life-shattering...