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Wealthy Demand Honest Advisors: U.S. Trust

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Integrity is paramount in choosing a financial advisor, 95% of affluent investors say in a new survey.

But relatively few place a great deal of trust in insurance companies, stockbrokers or mutual funds, the survey by U.S. Trust, New York, found.

Of wealthy individuals surveyed, 95% believe the most essential attribute in a financial advisor is honesty, followed by “understands my situation” (83%) and “keeps me informed” (75%), according to U.S. Trust. Those attributes were even more important to them than an advisor’s being a top performer, which ranked fourth at 69%.

The bank surveyed Americans with incomes of $325,000 or net worth greater than $5.9 million.

U.S. Trust found significant numbers of affluent investors deemed only three types of advisors very trustworthy: CPAs or accounting firms (53%), private banks (41%) and investment management firms compensated by fees instead of commissions (38%).

Those rated least trustworthy were mutual fund companies, rated very trustworthy by 21%, insurance companies (20%), and stockbrokers or brokerage firms (19%).

Wealthy Americans’ top worry was that terrorism here and abroad would have a harmful effect on the economy and the securities markets. Nearly 90% said the impact of terrorism was their primary concern now, up from 86% in 2003, the last time U.S. Trust ran the survey.

Their second-ranking financial worry was that the next generation would have a more difficult time financially, and 75% of those surveyed said this was a major worry, although this was down from 82% in 2003.

An increasing number of affluent Americans cited rising taxes as their third major financial concern–70% of respondents, up from 59% in 2003.

The affluent are more optimistic about the outlook for the U.S. stock market today, U.S. Trust found. Its Affluent Investor Index, based on results of the survey, rose to 66, from 62 in 2003.


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