I received a tweet from a friend in the investment industry a few days ago, congratulating me on my “mention” in Investment News, one of the investment industry’s most prominent trade publications. I scratched my head and wondered how this could be, since I hadn’t been interviewed recently, and in fact, I’m not even working right now! I quickly pulled up the website, searched for my name…and there it was: a tweet I had sent just a few days before, commenting on some recent news in the industry. My tweet was featured prominently, and graphically, right in the middle of the article. I smiled broadly, sat back, and contemplated my “going social” journey and how the lessons from that journey might also help you.

I’ve been quoted in Investment News before, but always in response to some news that involved the company I was working for at the time. Here was a quote from me, in an article I had nothing to do with, on a subject where the reporter had no way of knowing I had any knowledge or contacts. As a result of “going social” my quickly-dashed-off thought was being published to thousands of readers in the financial services industry – complete with my picture, name, and Twitter handle prominently displayed. Especially since, at some point, I’m going to need a real job again, that’s outstanding. But more importantly, it is a powerful example of the value and enjoyment you stand to gain by “going social.”

That journey for me started somewhat by chance. I was a senior executive in wealth management and the CEO of the asset management arm of a large brokerage firm in the Los Angeles area. Our firm was facing new challenges with the advent of digital wealth management, or what the industry refers to as “robo-advisors,” so I was busy researching technology vendors that might be able to help us modernize our platform and add important new capabilities. This led me to discovering that there was a vibrant “fintech” (financial technology) community in California, and in some cases right here in the LA area, in what has come to be known as Silicon Beach.

I had opened a Twitter account back in 2012, when I was searching for a new career challenge and read an article about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) that suggested creating more links to your name and recommended a Twitter account as one of those links. But my account had gathered dust for three years now, had almost no followers, and I “didn’t know what I didn’t know” about tweeting. But that’s the thing: you just need to get in there, and stumble around in the dark a bit.

It’s a little intimidating, but soon enough I began to find interesting content about fintech, robo-advisors, and other topics that interested me, like leadership. One of my most fortuitous finds turned out to be a book titled A World Gone Social, co-written by Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt.

Ted was one of my best friends in college. We lived on the same freshman hall, pledged the same fraternity, and pursued the same major in philosophy. I hadn’t spoken with him in 25 years, but here he was, his mug popping up on my Twitter feed (Ted tweets a LOT), looking like a guy that knew a thing or two about a subject that interested me. So, I bought the book and devoured it on a family scuba diving trip to Belize. Soon enough, I reconnected with Ted on Skype and caught up on old stories, what we’ve both been up to in the last quarter-century, and of course we talked social, social, social.

The book resonated deeply and espoused leadership concepts to which I was already committed, such as creating an environment where your people can grow and excel, crafting a clear and compelling vision, and listening to your customers. But, importantly, it modernized all these concepts for a world gone social, and opened my eyes to something that I vaguely knew was there but hadn’t seen: a tectonic shift in the way business is done in the 21st century. Social media isn’t just a way to share random thoughts and pictures of your kids with the world. It’s a way to listen to your customers, lead your people, discover new ideas, and hopefully, inspire others.

I soon immersed myself in social, and enjoyed more serendipity, such as chatting about Australian roboadvisors with people in the fintech world halfway around the globe. I met interesting people with similar career interests in the UK, Belgium, and yes, right here at home. I met friends-of- friends like April Rudin (@TheRudinGroup), who ran fascinating blogs chock full of great ideas and inspiring thoughts. And sometimes the virtual world made the leap into the real world as Twitter contacts turned into breakfast or coffee with interesting people pursuing similar projects.

I recently joined the board of the California Fintech Network (@cafintechnet), which was one of those breakfasts resulting from a contact I originally made on Twitter. We are now working together to make this organization a key resource for entrepreneurs, investors, and traditional financial services firms growing their fintech business in California. I’ve built relationships with fascinating people, from whom I can learn and to whom I’m happy to act as a resource. The social world is all about relentless giving you see, but in giving, it seems you also get much in return.

That’s just how it works.

I’m still a neophyte, with a paltry number of Twitter followers. But that’s not the point. It’s not a scoreboard, or a ticker tape. It’s a community pool that’s best enjoyed by jumping into the deep end and swimming in new ideas. Go ahead. Just like a real pool, tentatively creeping down the metal ladder into the cold water just means it will be longer before you’re having fun splashing around with your friends. Once your hair is wet, you’ll reinforce some old beliefs, modernize others for the digital age, become a better leader, and be more informed about topics you didn’t know existed. You’ll be more in-touch with your industry and the forces shaping it.

You’ll challenge your perspective, discover inspiration, and meet fascinating people that have something powerful to say. It’s been an extraordinary journey for me. And someday, perhaps it will even help me get a real job again. My wife keeps telling me it’s time to get out of the house.

Luckily, she’s not on Twitter!

About Steve Dunlap

Steve is the president and COO of FolioDynamix, a fast-growing, innovative financial technology firm providing ground-breaking technologies, investment advice, and thought leadership to investment and wealth management firms. He is known for helping these firms successfully navigate the digital disruption of the financial services industry, and has has spent his entire career in FinTech and financial services. As various times, he has served as CEO of large financial services firms, run small, private-equity-funded start-ups, and is now running a cutting edge provider of disruptive financial technology.

His career has focused on building solutions that combine technology and investment capabilities and are used by financial advisors to help their clients achieve their financial dreams. Over the last year or so, he has been “going social,” drawing upon his 25+ years experience in financial services and what he learned as a college philosophy major to promote knowledge, transparency, and ethics in financial services. He believes passionately that technology is the key to a more successful financial industry that serves consumers more effectively and equitably.

Previously, he has served as EVP of Wealth Management for Cetera Financial Group, CEO of Tower Square Investment Management, CEO of Lockwood Advisors, a unit of The Bank of New York Mellon, and President of Finetre Corporation, a financial technology start-up that automated the sale and delivery of insurance products. Early in his career, he designed a mutual fund illustration system at Thomson Financial, which is still in use today as part of the ThomsonOne platform used by major financial services firms.

He lives in Manhattan Beach, California with his wife and two sons. When it’s time for fun, they enjoy sailing, scuba diving, and exploring the desert and long-abandoned mines in his highly-modified Jeep Rubicon 4x4.

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