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Retirement Clients Are Advisors’ Bread and Butter

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While only a limited number of advisors position their practices to exclusively focus on individual retirement clients, these investors form the core of “virtually all advisor practices,” according to a new study by Practical Perspectives.

The study finds that 73% of advisors indicate that retirement clients represent more than half of the total clients they work with. This includes the 40% of advisors who say at least three-quarters of their clients are retirement investors. Nine percent of advisors count retirement clients as a quarter or less of their client base.

Practical Perspectives considers “retirement clients” as clients already retired, those nearing or in process of transitioning to retirement, and others who are still accumulating assets in anticipation of retiring at some later time.

The study is based on input from more than 850 financial advisors, including full-service brokers, independent brokers, financial planners and registered Iinvestment advisors, gathered through an online survey conducted in October.

RIAs are more likely than other advisors to identify retirement clients as a significant share of their overall relationships. According to the study, roughly half of RIAs have more than 75% of their clients as retirement-oriented investors.

Meanwhile, wirehouse advisors are less likely to be heavily oriented to retirement investors, although these clients still represent a hefty portion of their clientele. According to the study, at least half of all clients served by roughly 2 in 3 advisors in the wirehouse channel are retirement clients.

“While much of the industry emphasis may be on flashier topics such as robo-advice, social media, and serving younger generations, working with individual retirement is likely to remain the focus of most advisors for years to come,” the report – titled “Advisors Working with Retirement-Oriented Clients – Insights and Opportunities 2015” – states.

To this point, the study finds that more than 90% of advisors expect the number of retirement clients they serve will continue to rise during the next year.

Howard Schneider, president of Practical Perspectives and author of the report, also expects this number to grow.

“Recent market volatility and continued low interest rates have created greater demand for support to help educate clients and place these events in proper context for individual investors,” Schneider said in a statement.

While retirement-oriented investors are important to advisors’ practices, Practical Perspectives finds that the vast majority of advisors deliver basic support to retirement clients with support geared to general retirement planning and portfolio management, rather than focusing exclusively on retirement clients.

“The majority of advisors do not have a significant focus on offering specialized retirement support for key issues such as Social Security or Medicare, and opportunities remain for advisors to differentiate their support to leverage delivery of broader capabilities that are of particular interest to clients transitioning from the accumulation phase to the withdrawal stage,” the report states. According to the study, 16% of advisors overall indicate that they position their practices to serve retirement clients at the exclusion of support for other types of investors. The remaining 84% report a more general approach.

Richard Gauger, contributor to the research report, points out that this in turn creates a demand for assistance to help engage and influence retirement clients – whether through value-add programs and tools, illustration or planning software, or client-approved materials.

“While support for retirement clients is a core activity of virtually all advisors, few specialize in retirement and most do not have a significant focus on offering help with less traditional subjects,” Gauger said in a statement.

According to the report, many advisors rely on their broker-dealer and product providers for support in working with retirement investors.

“Opportunities still remain for product providers, distributors and other information or technology sources to help create the products, solutions, and services that advisors can use with retirement investors,” Gauger said in a statement.

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