The OG Internet meme stonk influencer, Keith Gill, made millions of his GME holdings while cranking out videos and commentary on YouTube and Reddit – commentary which recently left his old employer, MassMutual, stuck with a $4MM fine levied by a state regulator for “failing to oversee” Gill and his moonlighting on social media.
The silver lining of this fine is that Gill – as he revealed during testimony before the House Financial Services Committee earlier this year – is already a millionaire several times over. And he quit that job months ago.
But now, a growing army of financial micro-influencers is finding that it’s easier to make money through brand deals, paid posts and sponsorships than risking it all on some long-shot stock, as Bloomberg points out in its latest report on the new generation of financial influencers.
Take Austin Hankwitz, the full-time “influencer” who was hired by Betterment, a popular robo-advisor service. After noticing a spike in signups (with 10K new users signing up in a single day), the company traced the surge in interest to Hankwitz’s TikTok videos where he was showing users how to retire a millionaire by using the platform.
Once Betterment became aware of his videos, it reached out and brought him on board.
“We were, like, where is this increased activity coming from?” Betterment’s director of communications, Arielle Sobel, said of the sudden increase in customer inquiries. “It was not sponsored by us, so we had no clue.”
Users like Hankwitz are part of a new generation of online “influencers”, who have stepped up to fill the enormous financial literacy gap in the US with TikToks and YouTube videos about meme stonks and crypto. And after his partnership with Betterment, more brands came calling, including the crypto startup BlockFi, the social stock-trading app Public, and advisory Fundrise. These companies are throwing thousands of dollars at him just for making posts to his following of nearly half a million. Public even offered him a monthly retainer and equity in the company to replace the Yahoo Finance stock charts he uses with theirs.
And with retail trading activity still climbing following the post-pandemic day trading “revolution”, many of these “finfluencers” are now making more money than junior bankers and traders. Hankwitz confirmed he’s earning more than $500K per year.
And as these products grow, they will have more capital to throw at influencers.
Betterment isn’t the only roboadvisor hiring “influencers”. Wealthfront, a rival roboadvisor, has recruited more than a dozen paid “influencers” including Haley Sacks, better known by her social media handle “Mrs. Dow Jones”, according to Kate Wauck, the firm’s chief communications officer.
“Quite frankly, they’re just better at telling our story than we are,” she said.
Before her social media fame, Sacks worked as an assistant on Letterman and was mostly interested in a career in comedy. But in her social media persona, she used her pop-culture knowledge to help explain complex financial topics to her following (even explaining bitcoin through the prism of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s rekindled relationship).
One of the influencers profiled by Bloomberg was a former JP Morgan trader named Vivian Tu.
Vivian Tu, 27, a former stocks trader at JP Morgan, believes made her account YourRichBFF blow up as soon as she launched it. She published her first video on Jan. 1, telling TikTokers that if they were looking for an account that would help them learn honest finance literacy tips, hers was it. Overnight, her video got 1 million views and within a week she’d amassed 170,000 followers.
She hasn’t quit her day job, instead finding time to dedicate up to 15 hours a week to producing TikTok content, for which she is paid handsomely by her host of followers.
It wasn’t long before financial institutions took notice. Wealthfront, Credit Karma, FinTron Invest, Insurify and Tastyworks are among her approximately 10 sponsors. She has more than half a million followers on TikTok and gets paid anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000 per post. For someone with a full-time job, it’s a huge commitment, she said. Outside of her current full-time day job, she spends anywhere from 10 to 15 hours per week managing her account.
The rise of social media influencers probably couldn’t have arrived at a better time for the young workers who make up Wall Street’s workforce. This year, young bankers’ complaints about burnout at Goldman Sachs and its rivals have made headlines. Now, how much longer until Wall Street’s best and brightest are working for themselves, churning out social media content for a host of sponsors. No more missing birthday parties and weddings to work on pitchbooks.
Fri, 09/17/2021 – 08:37
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Author: Tyler Durden