EP 38 | Brian Thorp on Modernized Marketing Rules for Financial Advisors

03.24.21 | 0 Market Transform

Brian Thorp is an angel investor and the founder and CEO of Wealthtender, an online marketplace driven to help people connect with the best financial advisors and educators for their specific needs. With over 25 years in the financial services industry, Brian applies his experience, expertise, and passion to help others build meaningful and enjoyable lives and gain financial freedom. He believes everyone deserves trustworthy advice about money matters, no matter their income or stage of life. Brian graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Finance and currently serves on the Advisory Board for U-Nest, a mobile app designed to help parents and family members save and invest in their children’s educational future.

Brian joins me today to discuss the new SEC rules on Modernized Marketing and soliciting and leveraging reviews from your advisory clients. We discuss how client reviews can impact a customer’s decision to work with you and how sharing those reviews on your website can positively impact your SEO. Brian shares his predictions on when the SEC’s Modernized Marketing Rules will take effect and the opportunities that present themselves for financial advisors once the rule is official. We discuss how this new rule will prove to be a game-changer for the industry as a whole, especially niche-specific advisors. We also discuss how you can begin preparing your firm for the new Modernized Marketing rule, even before it takes effect — and the possible ramifications of not pursuing client reviews.

“It is a trust-based industry, and there’s no better opportunity for people to gain comfort and an understanding of a potential advisor that they’re working with than hearing it from somebody they know and respect..” – Brian Thorp


This week on The Model FA Podcast:

  • Brian’s journey into the financial services industry
  • How Wealthtender can be a beneficial resource for financial advisors
  • How reviews and feedback impact the buyer’s decision (as well as SEO)
  • How the SEC rules regarding modernized marketing have shifted over the years
  • When we can expect the SEC’s adoption of the Modernized Marketing Rule to take effect
  • How the new Modernized Marketing rule will impact the financial advisory industry
  • How to prepare your advisory firm for the adoption of the Modernized Marketing rule
  • Acceptable review formats according to the new rule
  • The pros and cons of using review platforms like Yelp and Google
  • The potential ramifications of not pursuing online ratings and reviews


Resources Mentioned:


Connect with Brian Thorp:


About the Model FA Podcast

The Model FA podcast is a show for fiduciary financial advisors. In each episode, our host David DeCelle sits down with industry experts, strategic thinkers, and advisors to explore what it takes  to build a successful practice — and have an abundant life in the process. We believe in continuous learning, tactical advice, and strategies that work — no “gotchas” or BS. Join us to hear stories from successful financial advisors, get actionable ideas from experts, and re-discover your drive to build the practice of your dreams. 

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David DeCelle  0:33  

Welcome Model FAs, I am excited to bring a hot topic and a great person to this episode, Brian Thorp. Brian Thorp is the founder and CEO of Wealthtender, which is an online marketplace helping people find the best financial advisors and educators for their individual needs. Brian believes everyone deserves help with money matters from someone they can trust no matter their income or stage of life. With over 25 years in the financial services industry, Brian is applying his experience and passion at Wealthtender to help more people enjoy life with less money stress. And today, we're really going to be discussing the new SEC rule that I think most advisors are excited about regarding being able to solicit reviews from folks and help their prospects and their decision making by seeing what other people think about them. So, Brian, welcome to the show.


Brian Thorp  1:30  

Thank you very much, David. Great to be here.


David DeCelle  1:32  

Awesome. So in your bio it mentions that you have 25 years in the financial services industry. I think our listeners would be interested about your journey from, kind of how you got started in the industry, steps along the way, as well as what exactly you're doing now. So if you could highlight some of that stuff, I'd appreciate it.


Brian Thorp 1:50  

Sure. So, went to school in Austin, University of Texas, worked there for a couple of years. And my foray into financial services was working for a mortgage company helping delinquent mortgage holders turn their lives around to the extent that we could. Help them restructure loans, get out of debt, and try to get back on a positive path. So that was kind of the first experience, and after a couple of years moved back to Houston, where I grew up, and began working for what was AIM Funds at the time. And you know, that quickly became Invesco. I worked there for 22 years through the middle of 2019, most recently leading the key account team. So at Invesco, the responsibilities that I had was a team responsible for the distribution of our mutual funds and ETFs through all the wealth management firms; whether the big warehouse firms, independent firms, RIAs, and throughout that journey really gained this tremendous exposure. It's not only the asset management side of the world, but obviously, the financial benefits of human health and financial advice for people, again, really, no matter their income or stage of life, as you mentioned in the introduction. And I think that's really an important part. And you know, when I mentioned before Invesco being at the mortgage company, on the farther extreme, where these were delinquent mortgage holders, really just trying to turn their lives around to the world that many of us know; which are helping people, many of whom already have a fair amount of money trying to make more of it. And that's really where with Wealthtender, we're trying to be much more inclusive than a number of other sites that are out there to help people no matter where they are on their journey. And the opportunity, I think, to really take advantage of some of the different ways that through technology and then through, importantly, the role that human advice has in helping people, whether it's through financial coaches or financial advisors, can be really instrumental and integral in the lives of people that are trying to get on the right path and achieve their goals. 


David DeCelle  3:45  

So with Wealthtender, you're doing a good job of helping any consumer get the information and education that they need to put themselves in a better spot. But it's also beneficial to advisors, as well. So can you share with everyone listening, why it's beneficial for advisors to take a look at Wealthtender as well?


Brian Thorp  4:06  

One analogy that I would suggest for everybody that's familiar with NerdWallet, it’s been a true success story in terms of, if you look at it from a revenue and profitability perspective, but it's really become a website that has lots of educational articles on a broad range of personal finance topics that ultimately are funneling people into credit cards and robo advisors. And we're really taking a different perspective, which is helping educate consumers on the wide range of personal finance topics, but then helping them understand the benefits of working with a professional who can help them achieve their financial goals and really develop a personalized plan based upon where they are in life and what they ultimately would like to achieve. And so that's a really fundamental difference. And in fact, if you look back at the history of a site, like NerdWallet, I know for advisors that have been in the business for some time, maybe some experience and some bridges they felt had been burned, where NerdWallet used to have more of what I would consider to be an advisor friendly approach. And since that time has really gone in the direction of, even if you were to do a Google search for best financial advisors, and you land on a NerdWallet article, they very quickly take you to the benefits of working with a robo advisor because that's where they're earning their income. And with Wealthtender, we're really focused on just the opposite. You know, importantly, the value of human advice that we believe is so important. We do offer the ability for people to become aware of the services offered by financial coaches as well. So not trying to be exclusionary, like certain other sites that may only be focused on helping people that have a certain asset threshold find a financial advisor; we certainly want to do that as well. But for people that maybe don't have a particular asset threshold, or maybe they are, as I mentioned, a delinquent mortgage holder; they're simply trying to build an emergency fund or figure out their student loan debt. We're in a position with the financial coaches that we have on the platform to fill a void that certain advisors may not be addressing. And so really, really trying to run that spectrum so no matter where somebody is in life, that we can help them wherever they are. And for those that do prefer self-help resources, we currently have a network of over 300 personal finance blogs and podcasts. And that's another way that we're really able to not only offer the value in education that there are a lot of great sites and resources that are out there, but as we start to promote the consumer awareness around Wealthtender, we basically have a marketing army assembled of those 300 blogs and podcasts that collectively have millions of readers and listeners each month. We can become the preferred platform for the readers and listeners that are interested in hiring a financial advisor or a financial coach, which gives us another great way to differentiate ourselves; and to your point around the benefits for financial advisors coming onto the platform, we think that's a real opportunity for us to help the advisors on our platform attract new clients, as well as being quoted in articles featuring guides and building their authority in their particular areas of specialization that they're looking to attract clients. So they can really attract the right clients to their practice, as opposed to those that might not be appropriate for their particular areas of focus.

David DeCelle  7:06  

And I think too, for content purposes, taking a screenshot of the paragraph in which they were quoted, as well as the image for whatever the article or blog was at the top and using that, it just; I think it's better to have someone else edify you, then you kind of stand on the top of the mountain and talk about yourself. So to be able to leverage some of those features and quotes in various other resources helps with credibility, and then also helps with SEO if they're popping up all the time.


Brian Thorp  7:36  

Exactly. And in fact, to that point, and maybe this will come out and some of our discussion around online ratings and reviews, it is that third party endorsement that naturally can become very valuable. And we've seen that in professions, whether it's doctors or lawyers, who have benefited from online review sites, and some of the feedback that we've been collecting as we prepare to help advisors navigate toward the SEC world becoming effective, and being able to utilize marketing, online reviews, and ratings and their advertising activities. It's interesting to see what has taken place in other industries. And we think we can apply a lot of lessons from there as well. And then Google also actually looks at the outside influence; you know, they're interested in seeing what's on your website, but they're also interested and actually encourage the group of reviewers that they have to place more authority on the opinions that are found about you on other websites for the very reason that they feel that that's kind of keeping the fox out of the henhouse as it pertains to just that trust and authority. And it can be placed in some of the reviews that might exist out there about you.


David DeCelle  8:40  

Awesome. We've been talking about, in our prior conversations, and the industry, quite frankly, has been talking about the new SEC rules around collecting reviews from folks. Let's pretend that there's an advisor who has no idea that there has been a rule change. So let's go back to last year, so to speak; share with us what was and share with us now what is.


Unknown Speaker  9:04  

Sure. So what was and essentially what still is because the rule is not yet effective, and it's going to be a little bit before it's effective; with the change in administration, the effective date of the rule is still a little bit up in the air. It's likely that the rule, because it was bipartisan support at the SEC for this new rule, very likely that there won't be anything that keeps this rule from becoming effective in terms of the administration change. However, there is a 60 day period, once it's been reviewed by the administration before it will become effective after it's been published in the Federal Register. A bit of a technicality, but it's probably going to be best guess May or June when that rule becomes effective. So your question for an advisor through that period or whether it was last year or still today, you are not yet able to take advantage of these opportunities for online ratings and reviews; except with limited exceptions where an individual of their own volition, if they do choose to go and review you on Google as an example, or on Yelp, there's one, really nothing that you can do as an advisor to prevent that. But there's also nothing you can really do to leverage that information as well, for the very reason that today, testimonials in that capacity are not allowed. And in fact, considered to be a criminal activity, because they're basically doing a 180 as this new rule takes effect. So until the new rule takes effect, it's very much,steer clear. But there is to some degree, you'll find, if you get out there on Google and look for a financial planner in a zip code through a Google search, a number of reviews may pop up. But generally, those either should be from people that put those reviews on of their own volition, or perhaps they were encouraged to leave a review, which is technically allowed today before this new rule takes effect. However, you as an advisor can not actually then refer any prospective client or anybody else to pay any credence to those reviews. It would be just the benefit of knowing that they're out there and that, hopefully, if somebody were Googling you that they see that and hopefully it's a review that's favorable to you, if that's what you were hoping for.


David DeCelle  11:19  

It's always been amazing to me. I was an advisor, and I guess, technically, I'm still licensed, I don't want to give up my licenses; but I was an advisor for seven years. And pretty much every single other industry, if you're selling widgets, or you're doing taxes, or what, and everything in between, you can get reviews, right? And leverage, I should say, you can leverage those reviews. And for something that'sI mean, think about when people go out to eat, or they look for a new gym or whatever, I'm going on the reviews immediately to figure out what other people are saying, and that's a great pre qualifier. And it's just, I've been amazed that it's taken this long to actually be able to do that, especially in an industry like ours, which is so personal and so trust based. And we're not given the opportunity, or we haven't been given the opportunity, to allow others to pass that trust to others at scale, as opposed to simply just having a one to one conversation. Why do you think that rule has been in place this whole time in such a trust based industry?


Brian Thorp 12:29  

It's a great question. And it really does date all the way back to 1940. When the rule effectively, the 40 Act rule began to take effect. And then this rule that has been on the books since 1961; best of intentions, like so many things that the government tries to impose, but the unintended consequences are exactly as you just said. And it's truly fascinating, but it's truly been over the last 40 or 50 years now, just this ongoing kind of patchwork of rules, and no action letters that the SEC has put together that has resulted in what, effectively, we're all operating under today. And I know Jay Clayton, he was the chairman of the SEC, outgoing chairman, was excited to push this rule forth, for the very reason that you mentioned; acknowledging that people do increasingly turn to review sites, no matter what the industry is. So it was a reflection that it was time to keep up with other industries, as you stated, but also, I think, looking back over time, it's been frustrating that the financial services industry gets black eyes from the bad actors that are out there, because those stories always make the news. But you have millions of satisfied clients of advisors around the country that have really been unable to share their thoughts or positive opinions other than at a cocktail party or in a more intimate setting. And it's exciting to see that it was bipartisan support. There were some dissenting opinions within that in terms of concerns, I should say, but ultimately, bipartisan support and unanimous support for the rule from both sides. So I think that's a reflection that this was just long overdue. Why it really didn't happen sooner? You know, the SEC was short staffed for the last many years. So I think that was perhaps part of the problem, that it just wasn't a priority. But we've clearly seen, online ratings and reviews across all other industries just become so prominent that I don't know that they had much of aI mean, they can choose to do whatever they wantbut much of a choice to not allow something like this for the very reasons that you mentioned. It is a trust based industry and there's no better opportunity for people to gain comfort and an understanding of a potential advisor that they're working with than hearing it from somebody that they know and respect.


David DeCelle  14:45  

How does this change the game for advisors? So they’ve been brought up in this business a certain way, they now have some added flexibility and ways in which they can market themselves; what's the impact that's going to have on them?


Brian Thorp  14:57  

A few things; you know, we've seen the proliferation of websites, many advisors that are increasingly doing a very nice job of developing websites and the tools and resources that allow them to do that. And that really provides the opportunity to talk the talk, but online reviews from clients and from others is really more walking the walk. And I think that in itself is a tremendous opportunity. I think for advisors that have chosen a niche and are working virtually, perhaps they work in a geographic region that's too small to support a niche, and now with both they and clients acclimating to an online world and comfortable with transacting over Zoom; this provides a niche advisor, no matter the size of their home market, the opportunity to leverage online reviews and ratings that can take the place of a refer a friend and a local market or ability to leverage that word of mouth that you're naturally going to get if you're focused on building your client base—and a more centralized community that online reviews and ratings really can help you build that reputation, no matter where you are, no matter where your clients are. So, one, I think, for niche advisors or advisors focused on a niche, that becomes incredibly valuable. And then two, younger advisors, I think, also have a tremendous opportunity here, because it's not just testimonials, as they're defined in the new rule, which would be opinions and reviews provided by past clients, but distinguishing endorsements, which are allowable as well. And without using the technical legal terms, basically, can be anybody that's a non-client. So if you're a younger advisor and you have a great network of people that essentially can vouch for you and who you are, your character, that can be a tremendous opportunity to build up online ratings and reviews that still, I think, resonate with prospective clients, even if you're not in a position to gather a lot of reviews from past clients or existing clients. And, as we mentioned, with the focus on niche, I think another area of opportunity for advisors is, whether you're perhaps based on maybe a faith based niche, or you have a particular occupation or industry where, by definition, the way that you've helped build your business has perhaps been speaking at various events specific to that particular niche or building yourself as a leader and an authority; the opportunity to reach out to people, even if they're not a client, but people that have seen you present or recruited you to present at one of their events specific to the niche that you're operating within, that can become a tremendous endorsement that could be just as valuable, if not more valuable, for the very reason that that voice is coming from the exact person within that particular industry or niche that you're looking to build your client base from within.


David DeCelle  17:43  

So if I'm an advisor, and I'm excited about this rule change that's most likely going to happen in the coming months, and I'm just chomping at the bit, and I want to get goingobviously, there's certain things that I can't do yet until it's actually passed. What should I be thinking about? Or what can I be doing in preparation? Because personally, I feel like there will be a mad dash, and that people are going to do this ASAP, at least the ones who are proactive. I think that a lot of our industry struggles with being proactive as it relates to running their business. So there certainly will be some people that get left behind and maybe not see its importance. But if I'm sitting here and we're recording this on Thursday, February 4, what can I be doing between now and May or June when it becomes effective, so that I can be like the first one to get out there?


Brian Thorp  18:40  

Great question. I think importantly, having help from your legal and compliance team, that ideally is more of the mindset of being forward thinking and innovative, rather than simply trying to prevent business or wanting to. I think a common theme for many will be well, let's see how it goes before we really delve into this. So start surrounding yourself with good counsel and compliance teams that are willing to be more forward thinking. With that said, there are opportunities to begin laying the groundwork, as you suggested. So an advisor today, there's nothing that prevents you as an advisor to start reaching out and collecting reviews, whether it's from clients or whether it's from others, non-clients. In the process, you're starting to build that library, if you will, of these different reviews. I do think from a record keeping perspective, it would be very important, even though the new rule hasn't yet taken effect. There are many parameters to the new rule that ensures that you're fair and balanced so that you're not cherry picking good reviews or negative reviews. So if you do reach out to clients, let's say you put a form together and encourage all of your clients to leave a review. I would be very thoughtful as to the approach to make sure that you're collecting it in a very consistent manner and documenting how you're collecting that, and if you get a review that perhaps isn't as favorable as you would like, don't try to just push that off to the side. Make sure you're collecting everything in a single repository, so that you can be prepared to address some of these questions as to whether you've avoided cherry picking and are being fair and balanced in your presentation when that day does come. So there are some, pros and cons, perhaps to collecting early; it may be beneficial to do the groundwork and just think through and perhaps, if you do have more of a forward thinking compliance officer, start to lay the groundwork to ask the very question, suggesting that you do want to be one of the first out of the gate to take advantage of this and here are the types of things that you're thinking about doing. But before you kind of pull that trigger, maybe just have that conversation so you don't find yourself in a situation where you're not quite sure what to do if you don't get a response that's exactly what you were looking for.


David DeCelle  20:46  

Has there been any talks or any specifications around the format of the reviews? So for example, could a client leave a video review that you use for your social media or your website? Obviously, I don't think you can do like a video review on Yelp or Google. But is there anything in the language that would prevent that? 


Brian Thorp  21:09  

No. And in fact, I think that's going to be one of the opportunities that comes from this as well, is an advisor recording a video with a client. It will have various disclosures that will exist around it, but that should be a very nice opportunity for advisors. Now, that said, I think we need a little bit more clarity. And we are expecting additional interpretations to come from the SEC, along with maybe an FAQ, to help address some of the questions from a practical perspective in terms of how that could be accomplished without the perception that putting a video of presumably what would be a favorite client out on your website doesn't itself feel like cherry picking when maybe there's a less favorable experience that another client encountered. But ultimately, it does sound like there will be opportunities there. You mentioned Yelp and Google; a couple of things, I think that are just interesting there. Yelp, specifically, in their terms, prohibits businesses from asking for reviews, believe it or not. So I don't know that Yelp will be a really viable place for advisors if we're all operating within the letter of their rules. And that's interesting, of course, right? Because many of us turn to it for restaurants and sometimes see in restaurant windows or;hear from them specifically, hey, leave us a review on Yelp. But officially, that is something that they prohibit. And then on Google, you'll hear from a number of compliance and legal minds that have been reviewing the SEC investment advisor rule and suggesting that it's okay to utilize Google, which by definition it is. But one of the things that I don't think they have dug into yet is within the Google terms, Google explicitly indicates that you are not able to compensate a reviewer and use the platform. So I think that is something that I know we're working on to build out resources to help educate advisors on the pros and cons of some of the different platforms. And that will also entail working with our own legal guidance, and specifically working with in my case, but Lila Shaver, with my RIA lawyer, who again, I think is very forward thinking and leveraging her insights, as we apply this to resources that we can share with advisors to help educate them on the pros and cons of different platforms as well. But I think ultimately, we're going to find it becomes part of the reason why sites that are more industry specific, taking into consideration all of the expectations from the SEC with respect to disclosures, and now all the hoops that we're going to have to jump through, are going to be a much safer place for everybody to live than some of the more broad based sites like Google and Yelp. Especially, even on a Google review site, if you're paying Google today, as an advisor even, and you go out and you look at the profile page and get on Google, you'll actually see competing advisors listed at the bottom of the profile page that you're paying for. So that in itself, I think may be something to keep in mind about Google and some of the challenges there too.


David DeCelle  24:04  

I didn't realize that because I get asked all the time. I mean, I just got an email from this yoga studio that I joined, with links directly to Yelp and Google to get a review. I bet you there's a lot of business owners that don't even know that that's a rule because everyone solicits the reviews.


Brian Thorp

Sure. Right.


David DeCelle

Then the difference is that they're just not regulated, right? A yoga studio isn't regulated by the yoga SEC.


Brian Thorp  24:30  

Exactly. The yoga SEC would be more flexible.


David DeCelle  24:36  

I love that. I love punny jokes.


Unknown Speaker  24:38  

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David DeCelle  25:28  

So what I'm hearing is that the reviews most likely will be used on their website and social channels more so than the traditional places that you go and get reviews. So with that being said, if I'm a consumer, and I see a review on your website, I'm like, well, shit, you control your website. Who's to say that this is real, and that John M. is a real person? Whereas if I saw something on Google, I know that that's legit, or at least I would assume that that is legit. So I almost feel like, could it work the opposite way? I'm just kind of thinking out loud here and playing devil's advocate, but it could have the opposite effect where it's like, I don't know if I trust that because it's on a platform in which you control? In such a review driven world that we live in right now and leverage that, and the trusted resources are Google and Yelp, just to name a couple; and not necessarily a website, because the website you control. So I guess, how would you respond to that?


Brian Thorp  26:31  

I think there's a lot of validity. And even as I mentioned previously, Google itself encourages its reviewers to not put as much faith into reviews on a website as a third party site, which of course is convenient for them if they're in the business of collecting reviews. So it's interesting. One of the things within the SEC investment advisor new rule is around third party ratings and rankings, and explicit in that is third party for the very reason that they don't want financial advisors, or a wealth management firm with financial advisors, to be able to construct their own ratings and rules and have their own badges or awards, saying hey, these are the best advisors and here's the award they earned within the organization. So again, trying to keep the fox out of the henhouse. So that's explicit in suggesting third party ratings and rankings; again, you see Barron's or Investopedia, or any number of those types of awards being still very much allowed with specific rules and regulations around them. But I think to your point, from a consumer perspective, that's an example of where consumers say, I'm familiar with Barron's, familiar with Forbes, or Investopedia, or whatever these different third party ratings are, so I trust that more. So when it comes to online reviews, to your point, I think not being on the site of the advisor in this case itself could be more impactful in many instances. Google certainly becomes one of the most well known, where people turn. What's interesting is if you look in the medical or the legal areas, certainly you see Google reviews for doctors and lawyers; but in those professions, it's sites like lawyers.com, avvo.com, even though they don't sound like household names. The reason why I think they've become the dominant platform for ratings and reviews in this case for lawyers is because when you're conducting that Google search, one of the top things that is going to come up if it's a legal issue that you're Googling to look for questions around, or even looking for that attorney, is they bubble to the top because they've built and really established their own SEO leadership within the space. And so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out. I mean, I think your point as a devil's advocate is a good one. But I think a combination of some of the challenges that we're going to see in a highly regulated industry and Google not necessarily adapting their platform specifically to our industry, combined with some of these other factors that could elevate third party platforms to show up higher in Google results specific to our industry, are likely to contribute to some of these third party sites that aren't Google or Yelp; becoming more of the prominent players, but also kind of splitting the difference between the advisor website itself having some of those that may not be as as potentially trusted by consumers for the very reason that it feels like you could put anything there. With that said, the other thing I would just mention too, is under the new rule, if you do as an advisor include ratings and reviews from clients or non-clients on your website, you are going to need to include a lot of disclosure, which I think is very appropriate and fair disclosures that they've come up with, but alongside any of those reviews; so that itself could potentially help alleviate some of the concerns from clients or from prospective clients.


David DeCelle  29:42  

So with this being a brand new topic to me, and something that hasn't actually happened yet. It's happened in theory, but not in terms of being live and people can take action on this, at least at the time of this recording. I feel like I've asked all the questions that I could think of to uncover some valuable information for advisors who are listening to the show, but I don't want to be too naive to think that there aren't any other questions or any other pieces of this that we should be talking about. Is there anything that I didn't ask you, or any topics that we did not hit on that we should be talking about?


Brian Thorp  30:17  

I think you did a great job of covering a lot of the really important areas. One of the things that I've really been focused on, as I mentioned, and perhaps singling out these two industries, professions I should say, doctors and lawyers, there may be others that would be suitable to consider as well. But that's really where I've been spending a lot of time and focusing on what lessons that we can learn from these industries, really asking doctors and lawyers and collecting feedback from these areas to learn what we can from others that have been subjected to this, presumably in areas that are highly regulated. So, doctors and lawyers are certainly regulated, ironically, perhaps less so than we are with the SEC. But nonetheless, I think there are lessons to be learned there. A couple of things that I would just throw out as well, Michael Kitsis, he's been interested in this topic for many years now, and had a long standing skepticism, I think for good reason, that the nature of the financial advisory business was not necessarily likely to make online reviews and ratings successful even when this day came that they would be allowable under the rules. And his rationale for that, in a meaningful way, has been the nature of the advisory business that once you have a client, generally that client sticks around for a long time, it's much less transactional. However, I think, in many instances, whether it's doctors or lawyers, you could argue that, in some instances, that can be fairly transactional, as well. But for many people, there is that comfort and that relationship that's built over a very long period of time. So, I would just suggests that while there is some skepticism out there, I do think that advisors need to be prepared for this new world, and certainly don't need to pursue online ratings and reviews, but do need to be prepared and thoughtful to understand the ramifications if they choose not to go down this path as well. So as an example, if we do start to see more of these sites proliferate in certain advisors, as we would expect, being proactive and collecting a lot of ratings and reviews and starting to become more known as a five star advisor, or whatever it is that takes form, and then your clients approach you and say, how come I can't find any reviews online about you. Or they don't approach you, and there's just this skepticism that they now have as to whether they should be working with you, and if there's something potentially wrong because they can't find any reviews that are written about you that are out there. So, again, I think it's fine for an advisor, maybe an advisor that has a mature book of business, that has relationships with clients, that's less focused on growth, to not spend as much time on this topic. But still to consider how existing clients may feel if they can't find ratings and reviews, if they're starting to see this proliferation of ratings and reviews amongst other advisors that are out there. Or if it creates some degree of, well, gosh, I wonder if I shouldn't be working with this person over here, because now I can see a lot of terrific feedback in terms of what these clients of another advisor are talking about their experience. And I feel like my experience with my advisor hasn't come close to living up to what these people are suggesting their experiences is like. So just being prepared for, whether you choose to pursue online reviews or not, I think it's just something important as well.


David DeCelle  33:40  

Yeah, what I’m hearing is that I think the biggest risk, if they don't adopt it, is what you just said towards the end; which was if they start seeing reviews from other folks, and let's just say that you're doing a great job servicing them, but maybe not doing a great job bringing them through a great experience. And then they start seeing how everyone else is having a great experience, I think that there could be some folks that end up leaving to see if the grass is greener.


Brian Thorp  34:08  

Right. And to the extent that we do see more of these sites proliferate, there is the risk, and hopefully not for so many of the listeners on today, but there is the risk that that review that you do get if you're not pursuing positive reviews is going to be that one disgruntled client that says, you know what, this is a great way for me to really like leave my mark. And today for many consumers, if they have a complaint, perhaps you hold your CFP designation, there's a known path to pursue to put forth a complaint, but it's much more in the background. It's hidden away. Where if somebody is truly disgruntled and these sites start to really proliferate, they might feel they can pack a more powerful punch to get their point across on a much more public venue. And then that in itself becomes just something that you have to deal with and all of a sudden you find yourself, even if you weren't trying to pursue...


David DeCelle  35:01  

You have to drown them out.


Brian Thorp  35:03  

You're gonna have to drown them out. Exactly.


David DeCelle  35:05  

Interesting. Well, cool. This was a new topic for me. So I always like the podcast where I'm learning stuff, you know, sincerely learning stuff for the first time. So this was great for me. I'm sure whoever's listening to this episode, hopefully you're excited about the impact, the positive impact, this can have on your business. I think one of my biggest takeaways is just be proactive, gameplan. Even if it's just putting a list together of clients that you do want to reach out to, you know, to gather reviews from and whether or not you ask them and archive them until they can be released or wait until the rule is actually finalized is up to you. I think at the very least people can just be putting together a list. And that's a good first step.


Brian Thorp  35:46  

Yeah, absolutely. And I think even safer than that even is beginning to reach out to non-clients that you feel would be willing to provide a few great words for you. Because that becomes something you can easily, once the time comes, get those published on your site, and right out of the gate, have some great resources to promote you from a character perspective. Or again, if you're in a particular niche, to really elevate your leadership and authority based on their feedback as well. 


David DeCelle  36:26  

And just another example of non-clients, unless they are clients, but a category that may not be your client but maybe advocates of yours are COIs. It's great way to advance relationships with COIs as well. 


Brian Thorp



David DeCelle

Cool. So before we enter into the after hours, portion, Brian, admittedly, I have not read this book yet. But it's a book by Christopher McDougall, Born to Run. So I have it downloaded; I downloaded it earlier today. So I'll consume that over the next couple of weeks. Why is that your favorite book?


Brian Thorp  36:44  

It's a fascinating story to start, and to be clear, I generally listen to audio books when I'm running and so this one just naturally resonated. It's just such a tremendous story. So the author himself is a runner, great storyteller. And he has his own experiences with and struggles with running and goes to one doctor after another, trying to figure out how, after an injury, he can get back into it. And of course, the traditional doctors were saying, it's just not going to happen, move on to something else. But then he found that one doctor that was able to really help him and ultimately it dives from his own experiences into this story that takes him into Mexico. Where I am right now, which is terrific. The story is just fascinating; the characters are incredible. There's this tribe that lives within this remote Copper Canyons of Mexico, that for hundreds of years is known for having wild parties and then waking up the next morning, and they'll run 100 miles over the next couple of days before they have another party and do it all over again. That in itself is this fascinating story of, you know, how can these people not only have the stamina to do that after a long night, but without the running shoes, and without all the technology we have that’s hypothetically supposed to make us better runners, and able to do things that modern medicine and doctors would say just can't be done. So that in itself, I think it's just a good story just to read and become a part of. But then also from the perspective of not feeling constrained by what the world tells you; that there is that opportunity to really do most anything if you put your mind to it. Don't get caught up on cultural norms that might be holding you back. But at the same time, don't assume that you can do absolutely anything because the story does include a character that's a loner from America that goes down and joins with this tribe. He was found dead at the age of 58, probably from a heart attack on a run. So take it with a grain of salt. But yeah, some of these guys might be able to run 100 miles, but they might end a little bit early as well. Nonetheless, it's a very motivational story and it's a fascinating story. So highly recommended, and I know you'll enjoy it.


David DeCelle  38:56  

Love it. I'm looking forward to it more so now, so I appreciate your sharing. Now, before I close out the show, where can people find you Brian? How can they connect with you?


Brian Thorp  39:04  

Sure. So Wealthtender.com is the website. [email protected] and pretty easily found on LinkedIn or wherever else. So Brian Thorp. And hopefully you can find me there and feel free to reach out directly online or by phone at 512-856-5406. 


David DeCelle  39:25  

Awesome. So for those of you who are listening, make sure that after this episode, you are putting together your list of folks that you're going to start gathering reviews from and put together a plan of action. Consult your compliance team, of course, to see how receptive they'll be to this new rule and if they're gonna be first movers, or ultimately what that's gonna look like. And if you did find value in this and because this is a timely episode, I would be sure to share this with your peers who you would like to be a first mover with. So go ahead and share this episode and if you would be so kind leave us a review on iTunes, we would greatly appreciate that. And if you text me the word accelerator to 978-228-2338, there'll be an automated reply, a quick form to fill out just with your name and whatnot, and then it's chatting with me directly. So I'll get a notification that says, you said accelerator. And what I will do is give you access to our entire digital suite services as a thank you for leaving a review. So basically, after every episode, if we get two reviews, if we get 10 reviews, if we get 100 reviews, whatever the number is; everyone goes into a raffle, we pick someone out. So we've done book giveaways, we've done coaching giveaways, we've done now the digital suite of services giveaways. So want to of course, extend the thank you for taking the time to leave a review. So please do that. And we are now heading into the after hours portion. Brian, thank you so much for attending.


Brian Thorp  40:57  

Thank you.


David DeCelle  41:05  

Awesome. I really liked that. I think it's gonna be interesting how ultimately, it all shakes out. That's what I'm most interested in.


Brian Thorp  41:12  

For sure.


David DeCelle  41:13  

I think that there's certain advisors, as we know, that are more in tuned with marketing than others. I want to see if there's a pushback, like if people end up being too aggressive with what it is that they're doing. I want to see what dinosaurs in the industry are just simply stuck in their ways and stay that way. And don't innovate. But I think this is a perfect example of an opportunity to innovate beyond what you're used to doing, because everyone has the opportunity to innovate at the same time, as opposed to adopting a website or updating a website or doing social media. It’s like, no, this role is gonna be a hard date in the sand as to when you can start doing it. And it's gonna be interesting to see who the first adopters are.


Brian Thorp  41:53  

Yeah, it's gonna be really interesting. I think there's, you know, we didn't touch on this, because I didn't want to go too far down the proprietary path. But on Wealthtender, we have the directory profile page listing for a financial advisor. And then if you as an advisor also have a blog or a podcast, you can have a profile page for that as well. And while you can't collect reviews, we haven't turned on the functionality until the rule becomes effective for your advisor


David DeCelle  42:21  

Oh, you can do it there too?


Brian Thorp  42:22  

You can collect reviews. Most forward thinking compliance people will tell you, it's okay to collect reviews on your blog, which if it's oriented around education, and your podcast; so I think that is a great way for advisors that have a blog or a podcast to kind of practice collecting reviews. And then I would make the case that in many instances, those reviews can be just as impactful as a traditional review about who you are and the services you provide. It may not be as explicit into the specific requirements or the regulations for the new rule, which is more about securities and investment advisory services. But I think if, from a consumer perspective, they’re reading a review that speaks about the caliber of the content that you're providing, or the podcast that you put out, it's still the affirmation that a prospect is hearing from a third party that is increasingly getting them comfortable that you're creating a lot of value, and would be potentially a great advisor to work with.


David DeCelle  43:20  

Yes, it's gonna be interesting how it shakes out. How do you like Mexico?


Brian Thorp  43:22  

Mexico's amazing.


David DeCelle  43:24  

What part are you in?


Brian Thorp 43:25  

So we are in Tulum, about an hour and a half south of Cancun.


David DeCelle  43:29  



Brian Thorp  43:29  

We first came in June of last year for like a week for a traditional vacation, and everything was just beginning to reopen so it was pretty deserted. And they were very serious about the mask rule. If you were in public, if you didn't have your mask on, they can throw you in jail for 36 hours. So real good reason to keep the mask on. And now it's definitely filled back up in the tourist area, which we don't go to that much now. You know, it feels like nothing ever happened. But in most of the town, you still keep your mask on. It's more relaxed than it has been. But I think like many places in the States, it's you know, you wear the mask in public and then you can get into the restaurant or the grocery store. Well, in the restaurant, take it off; the grocery store, they zap you on the way and you're kind of stuck with it, but it's good. It's been great down here. It's beautiful weather right now; you're five minutes from the beach and five minutes into town on the bike.


David DeCelle  44:24  

Pat and I are traveling to Medi and Columbia here in three or four weeks. So I’m excited, excited to get some nice sun. I mean, in Florida, it's sunny, but it's a little chilly right now where I'm at so. I got a couple Hot Seat questions to end out the after hours portion for you. So one is pretty straightforward and I'm super curious to know what your answer is. And then the other one is a little fun. So would you rather live one life that lasts 1000 years or live 10 lives that lasts 100 years age?


Brian Thorp  45:01  

As a happily married man, I'm going to say one life with the woman that I love for an eternity, just like is the current plan. With that said, I think, assuming that we have full health through that period, reinventing yourself is something that can be done throughout time. And, certainly my wife and I, we don't have kids, we have the privilege of having more flexibility than many. But using COVID as an example, where we’re generally living in Houston, we've realized, we don't have to be here, let's do something else. And we've had a great time living and working from Tulum. So that's one way I think that we can, within this one life that we do get, evolve over time and take advantage of opportunities that otherwise might be a hindrance and turn them into something that's fun and interesting adventure.


David DeCelle  45:49  

I think that's a great answer, and your wife would be proud.


Brian Thorp  45:52  



David DeCelle  45:53  

So last question, would you rather begin every sentence with, “Hey, idiot,” or end every sentence with “Haha, I was just kidding”? 


Brian Thorp

That's a good one. 


David DeCelle

Because think about it, right? Let's use your wife as an example since you brought her up. If every time you address her you said “hey, idiot,” you're in trouble. And if every time you said “I love you”, and you said “Haha, just kidding,” you're in trouble. So you're kind of in a pickle, man.


Brian Thorp  46:21  

Yeah, I think I'm gonna have to go with the “Hey, idiot” and then my best to turn that into some term of endearment.


David DeCelle  46:28  

I love it. I love it. Well, thank you for the time Brian. For those of you who stuck around for the after hours portion, hope you got another nugget or two. Maybe some inspiration to travel and a laugh towards the end. So we will see you on the next episode.