James Coney  

Social media has helped advisers - but it can also hurt them

James Coney

James Coney

We need to talk about Twitter.

What we ought to discuss is whether actually some financial advisers are, well, trolls.

There, I've said it. And more to the point, whether their use of social media is a benefit or actually harmful to their reputation.

Some advisers might not think they are trolls, but if you take a long look at their Tweets, and the hostility and certainty with which they shout down other social media users, you can be left with only one conclusion. 

Like it or loathe it, social media is here to stay, and Twitter is a front window into your business. 

And it does not matter how personal you think your comments are, they reflect as much on your abilities as an adviser as the actual financial planning you do.

In many ways, I think Twitter has been very helpful for advisers. It is at its best when advisers are sharing their day-to-day working tales of tricky situations with clients and how they have planned their way around them.

It is genuinely a delight to hear the success stories of customers who have neared the end of their investment journey and are delighted with the outcomes.

And it has unified disparate advisers from across the country with a common purpose, allowing them to share tales of service woe when dealing with large insurance companies, for example. This was never really possible before, at least not without networking events.

I regularly hear from advisers who have organised their own get-togethers, and become friends, all after sharing their views on Twitter.

But social media also brings out the worst in people: the confrontational, rude and hectoring side. It is not a place for nuance or debate. It is also an environment where you can easily be misunderstood.

In the past week I have seen advisers from vertically integrated businesses shouted down by those from independent businesses.

I saw a hugely respected journalist from the Financial Times told they were scare-mongering because they wrote an informative and balanced piece about tax reform.

They are not alone: my journalists at the Times and Sunday Times are attacked like this all the time, usually because of what they have not written and what critics wanted them to write.

I had a columnist who was writing about their own personal circumstances and who consulted three accountants, abused and harangued by financial advisers who did not like the decision he took.

And then there is the routine and offensive intimidation of the Back to 60 pension campaigners. 

Whatever you may think about this group, they have the right to protest, even if you vehemently believe they are in the wrong (though I also acknowledge that in some cases their behaviour has been shocking).