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40% of Advisors Say Switching Firms Is Easier Than Before Pandemic: Fidelity

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The coronavirus pandemic has increased how influential compensation and technology are in advisors’ decisions to move firms, Fidelity Investments reported Tuesday.

Four in 10 advisors in a survey agreed that industry-wide digital enhancements due to the pandemic had made it easier to switch firms.

Related: Janney Reports Big Jump in Advisors’ Use of Social Media, Texts

At the same time, more than half said a key factor in their decision was concern about potential difficulties transferring accounts in a virtual environment.

Nevertheless, many advisors have been successful transitioning firms in a fully remote environment, Fidelity said, noting that it has supported more than 140 transitions since March.

Fidelity said it has facilitated several moves by a new digital bulk advisor onboarding solution, and increased digital tools training for advisors. It has also expanded eSignature availability, resulting in a 190% increase in eSignature enrollment between March 1 and Oct. 1, and a fourfold increase in eSignature transactions.

“The pandemic may prove to be a catalyst for advisors considering a move as the remote environment has — for many advisors — emphasized the benefits of greater flexibility,” Charles Phelan, vice president of practice management and consulting for Fidelity Institutional, said in a statement.

“Firms will need to remain competitive on compensation, but this study shows that there’s significant opportunity for firms to sharpen their advisor technology story and continue to invest in new digital tools that help advisors more efficiently serve their clients.”

The study involved an online blind survey that was conducted in two phases: between Feb. 14 and March 4, based on data from 540 participants; and between Sept. 10 and Sept. 18, based on data from 388 participants, 90% of whom had participated in the first phase.

Although advisors are not likely to make a final decision to move primarily based on better technology, it has become more important as advisors recognize the benefits of digital empowerment, according to Fidelity.

Two in three advisors said firms that have been more digitally innovative during the pandemic have become more attractive destinations for advisors.

About half said working remotely because of the virus outbreak had made going independent seem more feasible. Some six in 10 advisors agreed that working virtually broadens the pool of firms for consideration.

Some advisors reported that they were considering a move within the next 12 months, but about eight in 10 advisors said they would need greater financial incentives to switch firms because of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

One-third of advisors said that higher compensation could convince them to switch firms.

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