The fastest-growing registered investment advisors in 2012 saw net organic growth rise five times faster than all other firms because they excel at delivering “the client experience” and as a result get more referrals, according to a Schwab Advisor Services benchmarking survey released Wednesday.
Regardless of their size, these fast-growing firms generated an average of 36% more new clients from referrals than all other firms, said Jonathan Beatty (left), senior vice president of Schwab Advisor Services’ sales and relationship management, in an interview in New York on Tuesday. In addition, he noted that the top third of RIAs in the survey reported that they were on track to double their assets by 2014.
Of approximately 1,000 RIAs surveyed, the top 20% saw 2012 net organic growth (defined as the change in assets from existing clients, new clients and assets lost to client attrition) of 15% of AUM growth. This compares with 2.9% net organic growth for all other firms in the study with $250 million or more. The top firms reported more referrals than other firms (see chart) whether they managed $250 million to $500 million, $500 million to $1 billion or more than $1 billion.
“These firms have black-belt status at relationship marketing,” Beatty said, noting that the fastest growers understand their specific value proposition and ideal client profile, which makes them better able to generate more referrals through strong client and community relationships. “The client experience floats all the way through the system.”
The median RIA firm in the Schwab study ended 2012 with $572 million in AUM, an increase of 13.3% over the previous year, while overall revenues grew by 7.1% to $3.4 million in 2012.
Beatty added that revenues should hold about flat this year.
“Based on AUM, we’re predicting 7% revenue growth for RIAs in 2013 given normal market conditions,” he said.
Top 20% Are Better at Getting Referrals
The ability to offer outstanding client experiences to “the right kinds of clients” was a key trend reflected in the survey results, said Schwab Advisor Services.
“RIAs that excel at relationship cultivation benefit more from referrals from existing clients and centers of influence (COI),” according to the published survey results. “Across all peer groups, these fastest-growing firms acquired referrals from COIs at a higher rate than all other firms do from COIs and existing clients combined.”