January 7, 2014

Investors Eschew One-Stop Shopping for Financial Services

More investors are using more than three financial pros, but advisors can make the best of this situation

A recent Cerulli report on retail investors finds that clients are working with an average of 3.6 financial professionals. That figure jumps to 4.2 and up for those with $500,000 or more in investable assets.

Plus, these average figures unexpectedly rose from 2012.

While this isn’t the news that researchers — and advisors — anticipated, the trend can be seen as an opportunity, rather than as simply a threat.

“Investors are looking at different ways to diversify not just their investments but also their [financial service] providers and where they hold their assets,” said senior analyst Roger Stamper of Boston-based Cerulli, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor on Tuesday.

One market segment that presents a good opportunity for advisors and other providers are investors ages 50 to 59, Stamper notes. In this group, close to 25% of investors are looking, or at least are open, to increasing their level of paid financial advice.

“That’s a sweet spot,” Stamper said. “And when you take into account the amount of rollovers, for instance, there is a significant amount of dollars at play.”

Recent Research

Cerulli experts have thought many recent relationships between clients and financial professionals came about from “a short-term desire to validate or compare current providers, or even as a short-term spread of assets to maintain FDIC-insured accounts in the wake of bank failures.”

Instead, investors seem to be seeking “new and perhaps better advice, eschewing their incumbent providers,” the report explains.

“This particular market recession uncovered investors’ worst nightmares, which is the fear of losing everything,” it added.

Advisors most likely don’t know exactly how much money and investments are in all of their clients’ accounts, and Cerulli experts think investors will probably “continue to use multiple providers at a time as another strategy for diversification, particularly in the higher end of the market.”

Transparency

One topic that gives advisors a chance to expand their relationships with clients is that of fee transparency. Cerulli’s latest research finds that more than 60% of investors can’t fully grasp the compensation structures of their providers.

Financial services firms must recognize how significant an issue this is and will continue to be “as more firms transition to fee-based relationships, blurring the lines between transaction business and fee-only business.”

In addition, the research shows that the rate of satisfaction for investors with their providers is “only” 62%. This data “clearly supports the notion that investors, who are not sure what they are paying, grow to become the least satisfied clients,” the Cerulli report states.

Again, this gives advisors a chance to have more positive, forthright conversations with both existing and potential clients about fees and fiduciary issues.

“About one-third of investors are unsure if advisors and other providers can find ways to clearly explain or be transparent on their fee structure in a simple way, and they might find it easier to start new relationships,” Stamper said.

This situation, he adds, doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more hand-to-hand combat between advisors over clients and their assets. Rather, it’s about investors looking more holistically at their options and their need for clear information tied to paid advice and services.

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