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Ken Fisher advises treading with care: 'You can’t find anyone in history that’s done a TV show and built a big money management firm'
April 11, 2011 — 2:51 PM UTC by Lisa Shidler
Ric Edelman, founder of the giant RIA Edelman Financial, is spreading his massive brand to public TV this spring in a series of financial educational shows titled The Truth About Money.
The 26-episode season kicks off April 22 on public TV stations across the country. For years, Edelman has found success through his radio show, which has proven a source for referrals. He hopes to gain many more from this educational show.
The new TV deal will allow him to reach 20 million viewers because the show will be distributed though some 90% of public TV shows across the nation, Edelman says.
Major expansion mode
“We consider our efforts on TV to be an extension of our literacy outreach,” Edelman says. “Though, public TV this is an excellent way to reach a very large audience.”
Edelman has already pre-recorded a number of the shows, which will start on April 22 and run as a 26-episode season throughout the year. Production costs are $2 million. Edelman declined to state his firm’s specific objectives and goals with the TV show. But he did say that he’s hopeful for this to continue beyond one season and become part of his brand.
His firm is in major expansion mode. Edelman has 14,200 clients and 22 advisory offices, all staffed with employees of his firm. He intends to open 10 to 12 locations this year and about that many next year. Edelman Financial’s publicly held parent company, Sanders Morris Harris Group, which has $17 billion in client assets, has renamed itself under the Edelman banner. See: Radio-star RIAs drive giant growth at national chains one $400,000 investor at a time.
Edelman, currently president of the company, will become the company’s co- chief executive officer at the firm’s annual meeting in May. See: What lessons can Barron’s #1 rated financial advisor teach us?.
A downside to TV?
However, another giant RIA Ken Fisher, founder of Fisher Investments, whose firm manages $44 billion, points out that there are some disadvantages to a regular TV gig. See: The world’s largest RIA takes the cult-on-the-hill to the Washington state woods.
Fisher, who is known for his marketing machine, which embraces everything from direct mail to infomercials, says that producing a regular TV show would prevent him from traveling and might also irritate clients.
“When a client hires you, they don’t like you doing new things that you weren’t doing when they hired you,” he says. “They hired you for what they think you were. The risk you run into when you start at TV show is clients will think you’re too busy to take care of them.”
Fisher has 25,000 clients; the average client has $1.3 million and the firm has 1,150 employees. This year, his firm has hired 10 sales people.
Fisher points out that while there are many successful financial experts on TV – none of them are building an RIA practice. Financial expert Suze Orman gives tips for getting people out of debt and Ed Slott provides more complicated advice on IRAs.
“You can’t find anyone in history that’s done a TV show and built a big money management firm,” he said. “It takes a heck of a lot of time and restricts you geographically.”
He’s done infomercials in the past and acknowledges they may do them again, but says existing clients didn’t care for them.
“Our clients didn’t like them,” he said. “When it’s on-line or we send out letters they don’t have it shoved in their face. Our experience is they find it intrusive. You have to tread lightly lest you offend your existing client base.”
Occasional TV appearances are generally encouraged because they help an advisor build their brand either locally or nationally, says Marie Swift, president and CEO of Impact Communications Inc. in Kansas City.
“If you like to do public speaking, you’ll probably be good on camera. But it’s important that an advisor be ready to be on TV. You have to be able to look good and talk at the same time.” See: What Ric Edelman is like live on stage
If advisors decide to commit more resources to TV appearances such as hosting a daily or weekly show, they do need to realize that clients may be worried that they’re not getting enough attention, Swift cautions.
“They may start to think that their relationships aren’t important. They may feel you’ve got a new focus, and you’re not interested in them.”
Before any advisor signs up for an ongoing commitment, they need to ensure it meets with the goals of the firm, says Jennifer Connelly, president and founder of JCPR Inc. in Parsippany, N.J.
Building local brand
One of Connelly’s clients, Mickey Cargile, managing partner of WNB Private Client Services LLP, an RIA with more than $800 million in assets in Midland Texas, is in talks to do a 30-minute weekly show for a local Midland Texas station.
Currently, he appears in a 3-minute segment twice a week on the local CBS affiliate where he talks about topical financial issues as well as educational topics such as saving for college. He enjoys the opportunity and said he’s likely going to take on the Saturday show provided that it doesn’t take him away from clients.
He acknowledges such a show would be a commitment but isn’t sure how much extra time it will take. Connelly also added that her firm helps do some of the legwork for advisors who are on TV shows to lessen their time needed.“Part of my job is to be the voice of the firm and media work really elevates my time,” he says. “It raises awareness that you’re recognized in the community and it gives them an opportunity to hear your point of view.”
His firm has about 700 accounts, and he’s gotten many calls from his appearances on the local news, but concedes that many callers aren’t ideal clients.
“This is as much giving back to the community as it is a business proposition,” he says. “It does build brand.”
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