Financial Apps Bring Customers Closer to the Value Proposition

At the Business Development Institute’s Financial Services Social Media Communications event here in NYC last week, I had the opportunity to hear Craig Pfeiffer of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney discuss his company’s social strategies. (You can hear what he and other presenters had to say at the event here and here.) I was keen to hear what he had to say, particularly in light of last week’s announcement that the financial services company released an app for Android.

In Pfeiffer’s point of view, social strategies need to facilitate a customer’s ability to find the information that they want, where and when they want it. From what we heard at the BDI event, Morgan Stanley is living up to this. A quick overview of what the company is doing in social included:

  • The new app for institutional investors, which allows them to connect with Morgan Stanley research
  • An app in development for retail investors
  • A social media site that allows financial advisors to connect with one another
  • Full access to LinkedIn for financial advisors

Pfeiffer and Morgan Stanley’s activities in social media confirm what we communicators already know – markets run on information, which is why people crave it and financial services institutions want to provide it to their customers.

Other financial services institutions are following suit. Insurance companies (auto insurers in particular) have been doing this for some time. Nationwide, Geico, Progressive and State Farm all offer apps that can help you in the event of an accident, point you to the nearest auto body shop and even provide you with tips on safe driving. Retail banks were also quick to adopt smart phone applications to facilitate mobile banking.

And while retail investment firms have been somewhat slower to leverage mobile applications, they are making inroads.  E*Trade was the first – the company revolutionized the trading world when it created an app that allows users to execute trades right from their mobile devices. ShareBuilder from ING Direct also lets you tap into the stock market from your smart phone, as does Fidelity’s app.

But, many of these apps are only available on the iPhone or the iPad, not the Android operating system or via Blackberry. So Morgan Stanley’s move to make its app available on the Android operating system clearly ties back to the firms’ strategy of providing ways for customers to find what they want, where they want to find it.

On Friday, Wikinvest announced that brokerage customers of Schwab, Fidelity, Merrill Lynch and more than 60 other brokerages will be able to track their portfolios on new mobile Android and Blackberry apps (but they won’t be able to make trades).

Mobile applications are one way to bring the information your clients and customers want to them, but certainly not the only. What matters most is finding out how your customers want to receive information and tailoring your communications strategy to them. Certainly not rocket science, but good to keep in mind as more social technologies emerge and we communicators sort through how best to leverage them. As the smart phone wars heat up, we’re sure to see more apps from financial services providers in the coming months.

To reach Meghan:

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