As the 2012 presidential election nears, advisors are like Charles Dickens describing late 18th century France and England in A Tale of Two Cities. Considering their own practices, these seem to be the best of times, but as for the state of the economy and markets, and their feelings about Washington, these are uncertain, dangerous times for advisors. They fear rising inflation, believe it will be more difficult to achieve their clients’ goals and that the “Millennial” generation will have a harder time achieving the American Dream.
In an interview on Tuesday reviewing the findings of Schwab Advisor Services’ 12th semi-annual Independent Advisor Outlook Study, Bernie Clark, executive VP and head of SAS, said those feelings were understandable. “The stakes are a little higher this time,” he said, referring to this year’s election, that among advisors there’s “more consternation” that can be traced to the persistent troubles in Europe, to “zero percent interest rates” and to “the least productive government in many years,” as evidenced by gridlock in Washington.
But under the “best of times” scenario, Clark (right) says advisors are “hiring because their businesses are growing,” and they’re optimistic about future growth because their “highly engaged” clients” are a key part of their “sales force.” Because of RIAs’ focus on engaging with clients throughout the financial crisis, those clients are now “telling the good story” of how their advisors have helped them “stay disciplined” to their families, colleagues and acquaintances. Advisors are retaining clients and their assets at a very high rate, Clark said.