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Ben Harrison, managing director and co-head of Wealth Solutions at BNY Mellon’s Pershing

Practice Management > Building Your Business

5 Ways Financial Advice Is Changing Now

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What does a day in the life of an advisor look like in today’s world? The events of the last two years have completely transformed how advisors think, engage and work.

Future-focused advisors have an opportunity to position themselves as multi-generational partners with the ability to deliver holistic, goal-based financial advice for the present and the future.

However, the advisor of the future will need to deftly navigate an environment filled with M&A, changing technology, talent wars and an ever-increasing focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and relationship building.

How can advisors set themselves up for success?

Here are five trends reshaping the industry of financial advice, and how advisory firm leaders can stay a step ahead to leverage industry transformation for growth opportunities:

1. Growth-Fueled Consolidation

Advisory firms have seen tremendous growth over the past few years, and as a result, have taken opportunities to assess new opportunities like mergers or acquisitions.

Numerous firms and consultancies, including DeVoe & Co., Echelon Partners and others, report that last year was a record year for M&A in the advisor space in terms of both the number of transactions and the volume of client assets.

Barring any stunning economic shock, this should continue in 2022, meaning additional smaller boutique firms will be rolled into bigger ones looking to achieve scale, bolster cybersecurity and help with regulatory compliance matters.

This is fueling a hub-and-spoke model with national brands pushing information and products down to smaller players. Advisory firm leaders will need to be uber-focused on simplicity and discipline when it comes to unifying tech stacks and operational processes, and eliminating outdated, complex systems and methods of doing business. 

2. Technology to Optimize Client Experience

As advisory firms join forces and integrate core components of their tech infrastructure and tools, they have an opportunity to drive end-to-end improvements that will ultimately improve the entire client experience.

A strategic approach to planning and implementing technology changes can help drive more thoughtful decision-making about what can be automated, what has to be customized, and what can be scaled out depending on client needs and assets under management.

This is no easy task, and one that will require strong leadership, deep expertise (both in-house and through strategic partnerships) and a multi-year execution plan. However, with the right approach, advisors can ultimately spend less time figuring out technology and more time focusing on business. 

3. Clear Differentiation

The rise of the fiduciary advice model has leveled the playing field for many firms. While this is a positive for investors seeking long-term partnerships with a credible advisory firm, it is pushing advisory firms to work harder than ever to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

More than 40% of firms are expanding solutions to remain competitive, according to the BNY Mellon Pershing Elite Advisor Poll conducted earlier this year. The top additions include alternative investment and direct indexing/tax optimization, followed by digital assets/crypto, according to the multibillion-dollar firms polled.

Advisory firms need to be incredibly clear about how they differentiate the client’s experience, the outcome that they provide and what makes them special from the firm down the street that is selling the exact same thing.

4. Capacity for Growth

The competition for talent in the advisory community has never been more fierce. It is no surprise that nearly 40% of respondents to the Elite Advisor Poll reported that retention was the top people focus.

Regardless of firm size, AUM or location, it all comes down to culture and flexibility. Firms must strive to be employers of choice while providing a differentiated experience for both their employees and their clients.

Do employees feel they’re part of something bigger — whether they’re walking through the firm’s door or signing on to their next video conference call? Is there a sense of community and empathy, with the added flexibility to work, collaborate and learn in a way that will help employees and clients thrive?

It’s become even more important for employers to have empathy in how they help their employees manage the intersection of their personal and professional lives. If talent can see, feel and experience that dynamic, the decision to join a new firm or stick with a current employer will be that much easier. 

5. The Art of Building Relationships

The industry of financial advice is a human capital business — people are the most important asset outside and inside the firm. In the post-pandemic world, the way in which humans engage has evolved. Hybrid, remote and in-person are all realistic options, and regional and demographic preferences have emerged.

The key to success will be flexibility and awareness of which engagement models work best for each advisory firm team and their clients. While more of the day-to-day conversations may take place virtually, thanks to accelerated adoption of video conferencing and chat technology, human interaction has become appreciated on a deeper level.

Advisory firm leaders take note — the old adage of absence makes the heart grow fonder may be the unofficial motto for advisor-client relationships during this time. A thoughtful approach to which engagements are in person versus virtual can have a huge impact on the success of your business. 

The future of financial advice is being defined by moves made today.  We’re in a true bull market, with an oversupply of investors eager for advisor support to navigate complex financial situations. Advisors who can strike that artful balance of engagement on a human level, paired with intuitive technology to enhance their relationship, have a tremendous opportunity ahead. 

Ben Harrison is a managing director and member of the Executive Committee for BNY Mellon’s Pershing and co-head of Pershing’s Wealth Solutions segment, which serves wealth-oriented broker-dealers, registered investment advisors and trust companies, and the evolving and converging needs of these clients.

Prior to this role, Ben led Pershing’s RIA custody business and before that, both business development and relationship management for the advisory marketplace. Before joining Pershing in 2006, Ben served as vice president of regional sales for TD Ameritrade Institutional. 


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