It’s no joke. Simplifi LLC is the firm introducing this “upgrade” to the financial services industry. It seems that they have figured out how to have a cartoon do what you do – only better. It’s a digital cartoon character named Sophie, and here’s how they describe her – er, I mean “it”:

“Sophie is SimpliFi’s Virtual Financial Advisor, and her job is to help guide you through the online planning process. If you get stuck along the way or aren’t sure what to do next, just click on Sophie and she will tell you what you need to know. And once you’ve completed the process, Sophie will email you occasionally to remind to update your plan so you can stay on track. And because she is animated, she will always give you service with a smile!”

The firm goes onto describe their service like this:

“The easiest way to get independent, comprehensive financial advice on the Internet. No big words or complicated formulas. No boring spreadsheets. Just tell Sophie where you are and where you want to go, and she’ll do the rest.”

But why? Why would anyone think that a cartoon could do your job?

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past year, the headlines do not represent the financial industry in a favorable light. OK, let’s prove this. I say, “Bernie Madoff and AIG.” What happens in your mind? Do they conjure up an optimistic image? No.

Point is, all that negative ink adds up in the minds of consumers. Add to it the posturing and spin America sees in the news every day, and a message starts to become clear to the general population: financial people of all stripes are unprofessional and self-serving. Compared to that, a cartoon is a paragon of ethics and competence.

Bottom line, consumers seem to have gotten tired of the way the financial industry representatives present themselves and their firms. Simplifi simply recognized some of the problems and set out to provide a creative solution. Pam and I love creativity in this industry. So, rather than gnash your teeth and cry, “Antichrist!” consider learning from Sophie. The lesson is one word – perception.

Next logical question: What can you do to change that perception?

As wrong and pig-headed as it may seem, Sophie is the result of a terrible perception. It’s not fact, it’s just perception, but as such it is reality. Good news, because it’s only perception, it can be changed. All you have to do is debunk it. Prove that this cartoon is inappropriate when compared with you and your service.

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