TD Ameritrade Puts a Human Face on Finance With Advisor Stories

Q&A With Kelly Caffrey, Marketing Director at TD Ameritrade Institutional

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Earlier this year, TD Ameritrade Institutional launched a marketing campaign called "Human Finance Project," which it describes as a "movement" rather than a campaign.

"Human Finance Project," created by Gyro New York, aims to change perceptions about the finance industry and features the stories of registered investment advisors (RIAs), which were collected through a traveling storytelling booth and are now being shared online.

Kelly Caffrey
Kelly Caffrey

In the following Q&A, Kelly Caffrey, marketing director at TD Ameritrade Institutional, talks about how the "Human Finance Project" is different from traditional marketing campaigns the company has done and why storytelling is so important in the finance industry.

Ad Age: What are some of the challenges you face as a financial services marketer?

Ms. Caffrey: Speaking at a very high level, just being in financial services marketing, the challenge we talk about is the overall perception of the financial services industry. As an industry as a whole, we are not perceived very well. The crash of 2008 didn't do the financial services industry any favors. Certainly the (Bernie) Madoff Ponzi scheme didn't help -- particularly the perception of financial advisors, which is the segment that we are marketing to.

And while that is certainly a challenge, as a marketer it's actually sort of an exciting opportunity as well. You know you have this big hurdle to overcome, so it gives us an opportunity to try some different things.

Ad Age: What was the objective of the "Human Finance Project?"

Ms. Caffrey: Unlike the other campaigns we've run, the objective of this project is to put TD Ameritrade more in the back seat. The overall goal is to showcase the great work that financial advisors are doing, particularly independent registered investment advisors.

These advisors are legally bound to put the needs of their clients first, through the fiduciary standard, and they take that responsibility very seriously. The objective was really to position the RIA profession in a very positive light, and show investors that advisors are not in this for the money -- financial advisors are about helping individuals meet their life goals through managing their money.

Ad Age: What was your strategy in changing this perception?

Ms. Caffrey: Before we go out and make this broad statement to the investor segment, we needed to start building some content. So we created this movement -- we're really calling it more than a campaign -- that gives advisors the opportunity to share their stories, specifically about what inspires them and what drives them to do what they do. So we set up a video booth at some of the big industry association events, and we gave advisors the opportunity to come in, sit down and talk to a professional interviewer about what they do and why they do it. So the first phase of this movement was content gathering -- collecting the stories so we could go out there armed and ready to share these stories with a broader audience.

Ad Age: How did you promote this effort?

Ms. Caffrey: When we first set up this booth -- it was at one of these industry events back in the fall -- we weren't launching a campaign, so we didn't do any big media push. So we set up this video booth at the event, and it was a little bit like throwing a party and not knowing if anyone would show. Within the first few moments of the booth being set up, we had our first advisor come in and speak to our interviewer. The story he shared was so inspiring -- he cried during the interview and then he sent us an email thanking us for giving him an opportunity to tell his story. We heard that over and over again from advisors -- they would actually come out of the booth and hug us and thank us for giving them this opportunity.

Ad Age: How are you sharing the stories?

Ms. Caffrey: We are still in the early phases of this movement. The first phase was collecting the stories. What we're doing now is, we are really trying to encourage advisors to be part of this movement -- to join this movement and share stories outside of the video booth, using the hashtag #humanfinanceproject, and post a photo of them that represents what drives them to do what they do.

The next phase is about taking all this content and arming advisors with content and tools that they can use to help influence their clients and prospects about what it means to be an independent registered advisor.

The third phase will be taking all this great content and tools that we've established and use it to go direct to consumers and really influence their opinions about what it means to be working with an independent RIA.

Ad Age: How is this different from other campaigns you have done?

Ms. Caffrey: It serves a bigger purpose. The campaigns we have done in the past have primarily been about TD Ameritrade Institutional. This campaign really set out to try to influence change in perceptions about the profession as a whole, and TD Ameritrade is really taking more of a back seat.

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