Making life easier for the 3,300 advisors affiliated with Cambridge Investment Research is job No. 1 for CEO and President Amy Webber. To do that, Webber recently met with about 25 groups of advisors to hear their thoughts about the business.
The meetings “brought some really interesting business models and service ideas to the table for us,” Webber said in a recent interview in Chicago. “For instance, a subscription model … It’s been talked about, but I don’t know how many people are actually executing it.”
The executive says Cambridge is working to support those who want to offer a subscription-based service and to integrate this work into the firm’s Wealthport, Clic Advisor and Clic Client technology. (It has about $100 billion in assets under advisement.)
Being flexible and listening are key to advisor growth. If business partners like Cambridge “do not come to the table with a value proposition that helps them do things more efficiently and effectively, [advisors] won’t be able to serve smaller investors,” she explained. “And we all lose if we don’t take that seriously because it’s a very real threat.”
About 17% of Cambridge-affiliated advisors are under 40, 13% are over 70, and 17% are women. The firm’s advisors have an average age of 53. Close to 90% of advisors are on fee-based platforms.
Webber’s meetings were organized by advisors’ practice type, such as solo practitioners, multi-advisor firms, large enterprise advisors and ensembles, which is “our fastest growing segment right now,” she says, and “resonates with the younger generation, [as] they like to work in teams.”
To help advisors attract younger clients, Cambridge helped them host and promote 90-day “boot camps” with a nutritionist, fitness instructor and advisor. “It helps bring financial wellness prospects together,” Webber said.
Yet another push is impact investing. Two recent group meetings with advisors “made it very clear that they need access to products like impact investing, socially responsible investing, faith-based investing, you name it,” she said.
Though different in their composition, both groups “wanted information around the same topics, which is why we also just released our impact investing platform,” she added.
These steps should help advisors build stronger relationships with beneficiaries of wealth. “Our goal is to give [advisors] tools to be able to capture this relationship.”
When asked about the SEC’s new conduct standard, Regulation Best Interest, Webber said initially, “It doesn’t look so terribly different than what we found the first time around. We built a lot around the [Department of Labor fiduciary rule] that we never implemented, but we didn’t throw it away.” With some tweaking, she adds, Cambridge should be ready to adjust to the SEC package.
“Who can argue that transparency is a bad thing?” she asked. The new rule may not go far enough to eliminate the “regulatory arbitrage between the broker-dealer and RIA … but it’s a start. In a perfect world everyone would be held to a similar standard, but the devil’s in the details.”
The bottom line? “It’s a positive for just the sheer fact that the SEC collaborated with the DOL,” Webber said. ”That’s a win.”
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