Poor Time Management Is Costing Advisors: FPA Study

By increasing productivity, advisors could add 50 client meetings a year

More than half of advisors at firms that manage more than $500 million said they work at least 50 hours a week. More than half of advisors at firms that manage more than $500 million said they work at least 50 hours a week.

Less than half of advisors say they feel somewhat or completely in control of their time and their business, according to a study released Thursday by the Financial Planning Association. That’s too bad, because better time management can get an advisor about 50 extra client meetings a year, according to the report.

The biggest obstacle to increasing productivity was trying to do too much, although 30% of study participants owned up to procrastinating. Thirty-one percent said increased administrative burdens were hindering their productivity.

FPA surveyed about 750 advisors in February for the report. This is the first time FPA has conducted the study. It was done in collaboration with Julie Littlechild of Advisor Impact.

“Our inaugural study was key in honing in on those primary gaps where advisors, including CFP professionals, felt they could perform at a higher level, comprising time management, client communications, business development and team training,” Lauren Schadle, FPA executive director and CEO, said in a statement.

The report identified three ways advisors could get their time management under control. The first, and probably most obvious, is having a clear strategic focus. The survey found advisors who had taken the time to establish clear business and personal goals were more likely to feel like they were in control.

An effective infrastructure is important, too. More than half of advisors said having clearly defined processes was the best way to improve efficiency. Thirty-eight percent said better scheduling was the best solution.

In-control advisors also focus on personal efficiency. The report found 44% of in-control advisors follow a set schedule, compared with 20% of those who don’t feel in control.

The survey asked advisors to describe their typical work week. More than a third are working 50 or more hours per week. Altogether, nearly three-quarters are working more than a 40-hour week. A significant majority said they work at least one evening per week, and 40% said they work three or more. More than half occasionally or regularly work on the weekend.

Women and advisors at larger firms were significantly more likely to work extended hours. More than half of advisors at firms that manage more than $500 million in client assets said they work at least 50 hours per week, compared with 31% at smaller firms. Forty-three percent of women said the same, compared with 29% of men.

Whether a solo practitioner or a team of an advisor and at least one staffer, 47% said they were in either somewhat or complete control of their own time. When asked about how in control they are of their business generally, 45% of solo practitioners reported high levels of control, compared with 51% of teams.

FPA also identified a hierarchy of responsibilities. Holding meetings with clients, prospects and centers of influence was almost never delegated to another member of the team. Business planning and motivating the team were occasionally handled by someone other than the advisor, but almost 90% said they typically do those tasks themselves.

Advisors were willing to relinquish a little more control of growth-oriented tasks. More than 20% said they typically delegate creating new financial plans, calling clients about suggested or routine changes to the plan, or meeting with product providers. Twelve percent of advisors said they typically assign someone else to identify new prospects, but 10% said they would if they had the resources.

Just over half of advisors said they typically undertake research-related tasks like gathering data from new clients, ongoing product due diligence, updating financial plans and client-specific research. Approximately a third delegate those tasks.

Forty-five percent of advisors said they manage the team’s workflow, but 14% said they would like to delegate that task, they just don’t have the resources.

Advisors were least likely to undertake business processing-related tasks themselves. Twelve percent said they currently do things like executing communications plans, setting meetings and preparing documents, and handling routine questions from clients, but they would like to hand those duties off to someone else.

The most common barriers to those advisors who would like to delegate certain duties to another staff member are not having the right people, training gaps, or clients who are not comfortable working with other team members.

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