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Ringing in retirement: Santa Barbara firms team up on baby boomer effort

By   /   Friday, April 27th, 2012  /   Comments Off on Ringing in retirement: Santa Barbara firms team up on baby boomer effort

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Frank Troise is a Santa Barbara-based money manager who founded FreeRetirementReport.com, a tool for baby boomers. (Stephen Nellis photo)

You know what age you’d like to retire at, but you’ve probably averted your eyes from the horrors of your 401(k) in recent years. But when will you actually be able to retire? And what if the answer contains three digits?

Those are the questions that FreeRetirementReport.com, the brainchild of veteran Santa Barbara asset manager Frank Troise, hopes to help baby boomers answer in the coming years. And when boomers have other questions – like how to remedy that projected retirement age of 113 – Troise has teamed up with Santa Barbara-based RingRevenue to use call tracking technology to connect them to the nation’s 1.6 million financial advisers.

Troise founded My New Financial Adviser. On the business-to-consumer side, the company offers free reports that previously required a trip to a financial adviser and cost thousands of dollars.

On the business-to-business side, it offers those reports and a call screening and tracking platform to help financial advisers drive leads. “You have 10,000 boomers retiring every day for the next 15 years. That’s the big pond we’re fishing in,” Troise told the Business Times just before jetting off for an interview with CNBC. “They realize they’re going to be pulling plastic over the couches and eating cat food, because boomers are screwed in this environment. For the majority of folks, it’s not even an investment any more – it’s about income and expenses.”

Troise is the founder of SoHo Asset Management in Santa Barbara. The firm typically managed funds for larger clients – $10 million and up. But during the recession, it started to get a lot of calls from smaller customers, the “mass affluent” with between $250,000 and $3 million. Normally, SoHo couldn’t serve them, so it made its technology available online. “We were getting folks from Wichita, Kan. and Nutley, N.J. saying, ‘This is great. Can I come into your office?’ ” Troise said. “We asked ourselves, ‘What if we carved this out as separate business?’ ”

After a lot of experimenting to distill a single first product, the firm rolled out FreeRetirementReport.com. The idea is to give away a high-quality, FINRA-compliant report for free in hopes of generating phone calls to financial advisers that turn into lasting relationships.

While advisers often charge for the reports, it’s mostly been seen as compensation for the time they take with the client. “Initially when we did this, we had some resistance from people who said it was destroying a P&L for them.

The flip side is that when you’ve got people talking to you, the stickiness is enormous,” Troise said. “The report is what people would pay $2,000 to $5,000 for to sit down in their financial adviser’s office. The reaction from boomers has been extraordinary.”

The response was so huge – “we were crushed with inbound traffic” – that Troise began to think about how the process could be scaled up to funnel business to financial advisers around the country.

Enter RingRevenue, a company that screens and tracks calls so that advertisers can pay for qualified leads. With the RingRevenue-My New Financial Adviser platform, financial advisers around the country can log in and bid to receive calls.

Here’s how it works: A baby boomer logs on to FreeRetirementReport.com, gets halfway through the form and needs help. They call an 800 number generated by RingRevenue’s system, and it connects them to a nearby financial adviser who has bid to receive the call. “This allows the small, independent firm to tap into a national campaign,” said Rob Duva, chief operating officer at RingRevenue. “You’d much rather be talking to a person calling you. The independent offices have typically worked on an outbound model.”

On the smaller scale, unique phone numbers can also be used for print advertising or cross-promotion arrangements with accountants or other professionals – all with tracking, to see how an ad or deal is performing. “It’s a tool for managing a local referral business,” Duva said.

Troise said his company has access to about 20,000 advisers right now and is working to enroll them in the program. But there are 1.6 million advisers in the United States, many of whom haven’t thought about how to use online marketing technology to drive leads. “We’re slowly working them in. Most financial advisers, if you look at their websites, they need some help,” Troise said. “All we want to do is introduce the 70 million plus baby boomers to 1.6 million financial advisers around the country,” he said in an email.

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