June 24, 2010

SEI Financial Advisor Survey Says Clients Are 'Very Concerned'

Survey finds that top advisors spend most of their time addressing existing clients' concerns, giving advisors less time to look for new clients

A recent survey of 150 top financial advisors working with wealth manager SEI found that advisors continue to spend more of their time reassuring existing clients than actively acquiring new ones.

The survey found that 16% of advisors spend the majority of their day on new client outreach vs. nearly half (46%) that use that time working with existing clients.

The increased client-retention efforts are a result of ongoing investor concerns; more than half (51%) of advisors surveyed said their clients are still "extremely skeptical about the economy and very concerned with future growth," SEI said in a press release.

As a result of recent market volatility and changed investor sentiment, advisors are finding they need to rebalance their efforts between retaining current clients and acquiring new clients.

"A key lesson for advisors from this survey is that investors have a lot of questions after the recent market turmoil ," said Wayne Withrow, executive vice president of SEI in Oaks, Pennsylvania, in a phone interview.

"While before, they had nagging questions and didn't ask them or act on them. Now, they are seeking out advice and acting on these concerns," explained Withrow, who is head of the SEI Advisor Network.

In other words, if the advisor doesn't proactively address a client's concerns, the client will take these concerns elsewhere, Withrow says. "This is not a comfortable market environment. This is a market in which investors question everything," he said.

Time Crunch

It's beneficial for advisors to be proactive in addressing such concerns, he adds, because then they can spend less time responding to dozens of calls as they come in. And such time can be better spent on prospecting, SEI points out.

"There is more demand on advisors than ever before," said Withrow. "That's what stood out from the survey. And it's pretty uniform in responses across the advisor space."

Though the recent market turmoil has hurt assets in the fee-based business model of many independent advisors, it's also "brought into spotlight and reinforced the value of personal advice. Thus, the bump has really improving advisors' long- term prospects and future," Withrow explains.

For some advisors, new portfolio solutions have helped. Nearly half (40%) of advisors have recently added alternatives to portfolios, or feel it is a good addition. Fifty-seven% of advisors said that alternatives provide value for some, but not all clients.

Survey Background

SEI's survey was conducted in at SEI's National Strategic Advisor Conference for 150 top advisors that work with SEI. Nearly one-quarter of survey participants (22%) have more than $250 million of AUM, and nearly three-quarters (74%) have between $50 million and $250 million.

Additionally, nearly three-quarters (70%) have been financial advisors for more than 15 years and more than half (63%) manage a range of 50 to 200 clients.

The SEI Advisor Network provides financial advisors with turnkey wealth-management services through outsourced investment strategies; administration and technology platforms; trust, banking, and institutional services; and practice management programs.

Its clients include more than 6,000 advisors; about 70% are independent advisors, and the remaining advisors are RIAs. The advisor network has more than $30.2 billion in advisors' AUM as of March 31.

Read a story about SEI's 2010 Advisor Network Poll from the archives of InvestmentAdvisor.com.

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