Survey: Clients Want Contact In Good Times And Bad

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An advisors initial reaction to poorly performing investments might be to hide from worried clients. But it is precisely this behavior and not a volatile market that makes clients uneasy, according to a new survey by The Phoenix Companies Inc., Hartford, and Harris Interactive Inc., Rochester, N.Y.

In fact, many wealthy investors are happy with their financial advisors in spite of market volatility, the survey indicates.

According to Harriss Web-based survey of 1,649 wealthy investors, only 9% of the investors are very or extremely dissatisfied with their main advisors, or dissatisfied enough to plan to seek new advisors in the coming year.

Seventy-nine percent of the wealthy investors said they are happy with their main advisors.

Forty percent of those who said they were dissatisfied said they are unhappy because their advisors failed to make enough of an effort to communicate with them.

In a companion survey of high net worth advisors, many said they feel sure their clients are dissatisfied with them, says Walt Zultowski, senior vice president, marketing and market research, Phoenix.

“There is a gap in perception,” he says. “The advisors feel clients are more dissatisfied than they really are.”

Irate phone calls usually come from the minority of clients, he says. Others feel they share in the responsibility of their investment choices and some even have empathy for their advisors, Zultowski says.

In fact, when the market is down is when advisors should be assiduous in maintaining contact with clients, he says.

And an advisor neednt feel powerless when delivering bad news. She can mitigate negative feedback with a recovery plan, Zultowski says.

“Sure, account values are down but the needs havent gone away,” he says. “The clients are looking around saying, Whos going to help me get back on track. “

An advisor can let the client know that what happened in the market cannot be changed, but the investment package can be fine-tuned for better standing in changing times, he says.

This strategy can be used not only with ones own clients, but also the clients of other advisors too afraid to make a phone call, according to literature from Phoenix.

Most people want contact in the form of phone calls, according to the survey. Others are happy with e-mail contact and some want face-to-face meetings.

But, what the results of the survey indicate is that an advisor is best served finding out from each client what form and frequency of communication is best for her and tailoring the meetings accordingly.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, June 24, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.