Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Social Media Wallflowers

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Social Media Wallflowers

Article excerpt

Some high-net-worth clients are missing out because private banks are providing "amateurish" offerings on sites like Twitter and Facebook, a report says.

While many consumer goods companies have embraced social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as new avenues to reach customers, financial institutions, and especially private banks, have been reluctant.

A survey on the social media activities of 50 leading private banks found that most had developed "amateurish" social media strategies, were "hibernating" on Facebook and displaying "tokenism attitudes" to Twitter and YouTube, according to assetinum.com, an independent financial information portal for investors.

One in three banks surveyed did not have an active Facebook profile, and of those that did, only half reacted to test "friend" requests by assetinum.com -- a clear sign of low interaction with users, said Benjamin Manz, an assetinum.com managing partner.

And even though 42 out of 50 banks surveyed had Twitter accounts, only 26 banks reacted actively to user Twitter posts and only 13 posted about wealth management topics. Barely half of the banks had up-to-date YouTube channels, with only 15 banks using it to deal with topics related to wealth management.

The Web sites of the banks were also found to be behind the curve on social media: Almost half integrate social media "insufficiently in their Internet presence," Mr. Manz said, with only 19 banks having blogs and only six of those actively interacting with users.

The results are surprising, when placed against the preferences of the banks' clients. According to recent research conducted by Scorpio Partnership, a consulting firm, and sponsored by Standard Chartered Private Bank and SEI Global Wealth Service, more than 40 percent of high-net-worth individuals younger than 50 viewed social media as an important channel for communicating with their banks.

"The high-net-worth individuals who bank with us are no different from any other customers in that they are increasingly active on social media," said Marged Lloyd, the head of online communications in London at Standard Chartered. "What's more, high-net-worth- individuals are often characterized by their international mobility. Social media, by its very nature, is largely unrestricted by national boundaries."

"It is clear," she added, "that social media can be an extremely effective communications tool for us. …

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