Photo: Maggy Louise Confections

Many professionals within the financial advisory and wealth management industry send gifts and cards to their clients during the holiday season as one way to foster stronger relationships.

SmartAsset, which serves as a marketplace for financial advisors, asked 192 advisors on its platform about their gift-giving plans for clients this year. The survey was conducted Dec. 1 to Dec. 14.

The survey found that nearly half of respondents plan to send appreciation gifts to their clients in 2020. Others were undecided whether they would send a gift, and about one in three did not intend to send gifts.

Four in five financial advisors plan to spend the same on holiday gifts for clients this year as they did in 2019. However, 16% say they will spend more on client gifts around the holidays this year than last, while 4% say they will spend less.

Popular Gifts, Typical Cost

Fifty-one percent of advisors surveyed said that if they decide to send a gift this year, it will be food or festive baskets. Wine and spirits are the second-most popular gift idea, cited by 14% of financial advisors.

One in five advisors responded “other” in response to what they plan to give clients. SmartAsset noted that those responses show that many advisors plan to send customized or personalized gifts to their clients, perhaps with the intent of building even stronger relationships. 

Some respondents said they would send personalized calendars, monogrammed blankets and various other custom items.

Financial advisor gifting to clients is commonly regulated by reference to the Investment Advisors Act’s anti-fraud provision. Both the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission also regulate gifts to clients. 

FINRA has a set limit, restricting advisors from giving gifts in excess of $100 per client, per year  with some exceptions. The SEC does not have a codified gift limit, though its Code of Ethics includes a clause on “moderate gifts and entertainment.” 

In general, advisory firms usually set their own gift limit policies that can be as restrictive as FINRA’s, or looser as long as gifts are not determined to be extravagant or a conflict of interest, SmartAsset said.

Advisors in the survey generally follow FINRA guidelines on gifts. Ninety-four percent plan to spend less than $100 on holiday gifts per client this holiday season, with 65% planning to spend less than $50 and 29% between $50 and $99.99. 

Six percent estimated that their holiday gifts would exceed $100 per client.

A look around the internet finds elegant gifts with a two-digit price tag to please a variety of tastes — but time’s running out!