Client segmentation is at the heart of an advisor’s growth, productivity, and ultimate profitability.

Client segmentation is key to boosting advisors’ productivity and profitability, according to new research.

Cerulli Associates unveils this finding in the June 2015 issue of “The Cerulli Edge – U.S. Edition.” The issue evaluates asset manager’s scale, advisors’ segmentation of clients, and banks’ segmentation of clients for ease of service and product delivery.

“Segmentation is at the heart of an advisor’s growth, productivity, and ultimate profitability,” says Kenton Shirk, associate director at Cerulli. “The process of segmenting prospects and clients allows advisors to make critical trade-offs between resource allotment and opportunity potential. An advisor’s time is his or her most valuable — and perishable —resource.”

“Effective segmentation tends to be difficult for advisors to establish and implement,” Shirk adds. “Advisors struggle to prune clients who are now outside their ideal profile, but became clients when they begin their career, because of a sense of obligation and worry that turning down these non-ideal clients will strain an existing relationship.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Registered investment advisor (RIA firms) manage an average of $99.2 million per firm. This compares with an average of $149.5 million for RIA firms operating as an investment planner model.

  • Cerulli observes a “strong correlation” between a practice’s size and its core market: the larger the practice, the greater the likelihood of serving high-net-worth clients.

  • The productivity of wirehouse advisors is significantly greater than that of advisors in other channels. Wirehouse advisors manage more than two-and-one-half times the assets of the industry average.

  • Advisors should segment clients not only based on clients’ asset levels or revenue generated from assets under management; they should factor in the potential for future growth opportunities, such as those individuals with substantial savings potential, clients who present cross-selling opportunities, or those with substantial outside assets that could be transferred to the advisor.

  • Advisors should segment clients based on (1) the quality of referrals; (2) niche markets they’re serving (e.g., physicians, business owners, or employees of a particular company); (3) the type of practice they have (e.g., fee-based versus brokerage); and (4) the depth and quality of their relationship with each client.

Shirk notes that client segmentation yields many benefits for advisors.

“[Client segmentation] helps an advisor focus time and resources on the highest priority on clients and prospects, ensuring a high-touch, positive experience for top clients, while providing a reasonable yet proportionate level of service to non-ideal clients when necessary,” he says. “The segmentation strategy for an advisor practice lays the foundation for its service model and pricing structure, and these intertwined decisions have significant ramifications for a practice’s productivity and profit output.”