Financial services companies that are difficult to work with are a financial drain on most broker-dealers’ practices, a new survey reveals, and among the broker-dealers’ chief gripes are products that are complex and confusing.
These are among the key findings of a survey released by ING U.S. Financial Services, El Segundo, Calif.
More than four out of 10 (42%) of B-Ds say the amount of information, paperwork or number of products offered by financial services companies has become complicated or more difficult. In nearly three of 10 cases (29%), support worsened or became less accessible. And 11% of B-Ds say training support decreased or worsened.
“Advisors want to see the delivery of financial services become easier,” says Dana Ripley, a senior vice president of external communications at ING. “From their perspective, every hour spent doing paperwork or managing something behind the scenes takes time away from revenue-generating activities.”
Survey conclusions support that contention. Some 87% of respondents say that “when a financial institution is difficult to work with, it costs me money.” Despite improvements made at some partnering institutions, only 14% of B-Ds say it’s “much easier” to do business with these companies.
Twenty-eight percent of brokers who do report service improvements say support “became better or more accessible.” An equal percentage say “the amount of information, paperwork or number of products” offered was streamlined or made easier. Another 22% say their wholesalers have become more responsive.
Only 8% of respondents say their financial service company’s products “became less complex or confusing.” And a mere 2% of respondents cite website access or online information as resources that made their jobs easier.
When asked to rate the importance of 16 elements of a B-D’s relationship with a manufacturer, respondents flag four factors as contributing most to a producer’s success: a professional support staff; fulfillment of company promises; products that perform well; and ease of access to company representatives for questions about products.
Some 32% say it is harder to give advice to clients today compared to five years ago. Topping their list of challenges are getting people to make a decision (90% of respondents); convincing prospective clients that they need the guidance of a financial professional to prepare successfully for their financial future (85%); overcoming people’s lack of interest in financial planning (82%); and overcoming people’s intimidation about financial planning (81%).
Smaller, but still significant, percentages cite other hurdles. These include gaining clients’ trust (76%); convincing clients of the importance of planning financially for the future (74%); and educating clients about the various investment options available to them (72%).
“Clients want to trust a financial services professional, but they’re unsure about the products or services being offered them,” says Ripley. “That creates a reluctance to do engage in planning.
“People nearing retirement feel a greater sense of urgency about their finances,” he adds. “But when it comes to making decisions, they’re uncertain about the best thing to do.”
Asked how strong a factor “streamlined processes for application and payment” is in helping clients succeed, about half (49%) of 182 surveyed brokers from firms with more than 1,000 employees say “it helps a great deal.” But only a third (33%) of brokers from smaller firms respond similarly.
Forty-six of 142 surveyed brokers engaged in financial planning, insurance and annuity sales say that offering a wide range of products “helps a great deal.” But only 26% of 106 surveyed stocks or securities brokers felt the same.
Almost all (94%) of 49 surveyed brokers from the banking sector and other industries say their clients value an advisor’s knowledge more than friendliness. That compares to 84% of the 142 brokers from the financial planning, life insurance and annuities professions.
Almost half (47%) of 142 brokers in the financial planning/insurance/annuities fields say “it is no challenge at all” to understand a client’s needs. But only 34% of the 106 brokers in the stocks or securities industries say the same, as do 31% of 49 surveyed brokers in the banking/other category.
Fourteen percent of 227 surveyed brokers with more than five years’ experience say women are “very easy” to advise and provide services for. But only 5% of the 73 brokers with less than five years experience felt the same way.
“More than ever, clients need the help of a trusted professional to prepare for retirement,” says Ripley. “The future of safety nets on which generations past depended–company pensions and Social Security–are uncertain. “The average person doesn’t have the time or expertise to successfully manage a portfolio of investments on a daily basis.”
The report, conducted by GfK unit Roper Public Affairs in behalf of ING, surveyed 300 broker-dealers, including professionals engaged in financial planning, life insurance, annuities and securities sales. The report follows by a month a survey of 1,000 consumers that ING polled on the frustrations they face when doing financial planning.