By

The Phoenix Companies Inc., Hartford, has released the results of a survey that delineates different segments of the affluent market. One purpose is to give financial advisors a tool for selling the same products to different types of people.

When the bull market of the 1990s was making many people wealthy, such information would probably have been ignored by advisors, says Stephen Gresham, chief sales and marketing officer at the Phoenix asset-management unit.

The reason, he continues, is that they were making a good living selling products to clients who were investing heavily in what they perceived as a reliable, enduring stock market.

But now, after three years of a bear market, clients have regained their balance and are less willing to buy just anything, he explains. So, advisors need to know with whom they are working, and what appeals to them and why, in order to sell, he says. This is especially true of baby boomer clients, Gresham says.

“Baby boomers are waking up to the fact that they have a financial crisis looming before them,” Gresham says. Namely, how does one prepare for retirement when the products that worked when equities were strong are now defined largely by weak returns?

Most products have equal application to the different profiles, he says. The information from the survey is meant to help the advisor package the approach, not decide which products to sell.

“An advisors success would be in his ability to approach a client in a way tailored for a person with that sensibility,” Gresham says. “Its not that the products are right or wrong, but it gives you a feel for how to approach the person.”

Phoenix used the survey answers to divide the wealthy into six groups: Deal Masters, Altruistic Achievers, Secret Succeeders, Status Chasers, Satisfied Savers and Disengaged Inheritors.

Members of some groups were wealthy but also reluctant to seek professional financial advice.

Phoenix describes the Deal Masters, or 11% of the survey participants, as relatively young dealmakers who have an average age of 49 and a “winner takes all” attitude about life. They have achieved an average net worth of $3.5 million.

But they have lost an average of only 23% of portfolio value over the past three years, and 91% believe that they are very or fairly financially knowledgeable. Fifty-six percent say they rarely seek professional financial advice, Phoenix says.

Phoenix recommends that advisors try to reach Deal Masters by using a results-oriented approach and showing how insurance products can fit in with the many products that the Deal Masters already own.

The Altruistic Achievers, or 17% of the survey participants, want to share their wealth with others.

They have an average net worth of $2.6 million, and they report losing an average of 33% of portfolio value over the past three years. They admit to losing more portfolio value than members of the other five groups, and only 18% say they shy away from professional financial advice, Phoenix says.

Phoenix recommends that advisors approach Altruistic Achievers by showing how insurance products can help them help family members and charities.

Members of a third group, the Status Chasers, may also be a good target for advisors: they have an average net worth of $2 million, but few have financial plans and only 65% believe that they know much about financial affairs, Phoenix says. The Status Chasers reported suffering an average three-year portfolio loss of 31%.

“An advisor can get a sense of who the people are by asking whats important to them,” Gresham says. “Someone like the Deal Master, they think theyre savvy. Youd have to go a long way to bring them something that will impress them.

“If you give them something in a straightforward way, theyll laugh, but if you tell them they can be one of the lucky few to take advantage of a new hedge fund or a brand new estate planning strategy, theyll be all ears.”

Satisfied savers, on the other hand, would feel “ho hum” faced with this tactic and would prefer a straightforward approach, Gresham says.

Phoenix hired researchers at Harris Interactive Inc., Rochester, N.Y., to conduct the Web-based survey of U.S. household financial decision makers who come from homes with a net worth of at least $1 million.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, July 14, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.