Welcome to Financial Advisor IQ
Follow

How in Tune Are You With Your Clients' Worries?

By FA-IQ StaffGrace Williams July 7, 2017

What a client wants and what a client is offered might be worlds apart, new research seems to indicate – especially with younger clients and prospects.

Millennials have a plan for their retirement: They’re counting on their parents to help them get through. Failing that, they’ll rely on their own children. That’s the message from a Natixis Global Asset Management survey which found millennials twice as likely as baby boomers to think they can lean on their own family in retirement. Some 62% of millennials versus 31% of boomers are expecting an inheritance will fund their retirement, and 47% of millennials versus 24% of boomers see their children as important providers of housing and financial security in their old age.

“Our research shows that younger investors are starting to plan and save for retirement earlier in life, in part because of the availability of workplace retirement savings plans,” Ed Farrington, executive vice president of retirement at Natixis, said in a statement. “Yet many are underestimating the impact of taxes, inflation and increased longevity on their retirement savings.”

Yet rather than educating clients about the impact of taxes on their portfolios or providing a robust retirement plan, many financial advisors believe they overly concentrate on selecting investment strategies and portfolio management. Research from Fidelity found that 81% of firm leaders believe they need to deliver value differently in the future.

“Advisory firms are being challenged to create more value with their investor clients. But how do they do that?” said Sanjiv Mirchandani, president of Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions, in a statement. “To achieve success, firms must be methodical in how they deliver value and be open to delivering it differently.”

In a bid to help these firms pivot, Fidelity has created a so-called advice value stack that purportedly helps FAs reposition to add value for clients whose “perceptions of value are changing, as they place more emphasis on how advisors help to achieve their life goals.”

In essence Fidelity seems to be telling advisors to prioritize a client’s “fulfillment,” “peace of mind” and goal achievement over “managing the money.” In a press release accompanying the launch of the “stack,” Fidelity said that presently only 6% of firms focus on fulfillment — “the top layer of the stack,” whereas in the future only 5% will focus primarily on managing the money — “the bottom of the stack.”

“This up-ending of firm leaders’ focus indicates their desire to make this strategic shift,” Fidelity claimed.

Yet, quite justifiably, it is often difficult for many advisors to tear their concentration away from the here and now. Last year Investacorp conducted an online advisor survey about their biggest challenges in 2017. Specifically, the survey targeted opinions on growth plans and clients’ greatest concerns. In addition, the survey asked respondents how they would handle future challenges. Of the respondents, 28.21% were independent RIAs and 21.79% were affiliated with a broker dealer.

Growth earned a top spot in two categories. A whopping 65% of respondents selected client acquisition as their top challenge. Interestingly, this concern coincides with 85% selecting growing their business as a top priority and key focus for 2017. Additionally, on the growth front, 35% of survey respondents plan to increase their services for existing clients and 35% plan to acquire a new firm this year.

One issue on the client acquisition front is that business is increasingly being conducted differently. According to Andrew Denney, founder and CEO of Springfield, Mo.-based Prosperity Financial, drumming up business through the phone book and cold calling is a relic of the past and this barrier to entry has created a gaping void.

“We have to be creative on how we are going to obtain new clients,” he says. Denney, who manages $150 million, has found in his own practice that the easiest way is by “asking existing clients for referrals.”

According to Denney, aging advisors know they need to get out of the business, yet won’t make the leap because it’s hard to get the value out of the practice. One downside with firm acquisition is the price tag advisors put on their businesses. “Realistically, when you sell your practice you’re able to get about two times earnings,” he says. “If I’m successful at 64 making $500,000 a year, do I really want to sell my business for $1 million when I can just work for two more years for the same amount?”

But there are things you can do to ensure the vitality of your business. It turns out that benchmark beating and performance provide great bragging rights among your peers, yet performance still continues to matter less to clients. When asked about their greatest client concerns, retirement planning ranked highest with 50% while performance came in second at 20%.

In essence, numbers are sexy, but good information and a back-and-forth discussion with well thought-out materials will help cement client satisfaction. For the savvy advisor, this bears fruit in the form of referrals.

Just ask Arwen Becker, a financial advisor and co-owner of Bellevue, Wash.-based Becker Retirement Group. “We can never outspend Merrill Lynch,” she says. “But we can out-experience them.”

The firm, which has $95 million in assets under management, is currently focusing on female clients through an outreach initiative that partners with a women-specific financial outfit.

Reaching out to discuss the different factors that affect women has brought in new clients, according to Becker. “We’re moving away from the mindset of being in the sales business and really getting into a planning piece,” she says. The firm can “create such a great client experience where they say they’ve never had a financial planner that gave them so much attention before asking for anything.”