Advice firms that lead with financial planning have the most satisfied clients. That's the primary finding of new research from the United States.
Clients are also more likely to feel they’re receiving value for money if their adviser offers other non-investment-related services. These include estate planning, life insurance planning, retirement income planning and long-term care planning.
Clients — especially wealthier clients — also want to understand how their adviser is remunerated.
The study by Carson Coaching is based on a survey was carried out in December 2019. Researchers polled 1,244 people between the ages of 60 and 75, with at least $100,000 in investable assets. Some were advised, others weren’t.
This latest research provides further evidence that the traditional adviser value proposition, which was primarily based on investment expertise, is outdated.
The United States is ahead of the curve in this respect. The difficulty of identifying “star” fund managers in advance has been more generally accepted there, and for rather longer, than in other countries. There is also a larger proportion of firms in the US that focus on so-called financial life planning rather than investment advice.
Nevertheless, this new research has important lessons for advisers in countries like the UK and Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
The full report is well worth reading, but here are 12 key takeaways.
1. People with an adviser are more confident about their preparedness for retirement than those without. 59% of advised investors felt a high level of confidence, as opposed to 47% of those without an adviser.
2. Unsurprisingly perhaps, clients overwhelmingly want advice that is in their best interests. 98% of respondents said it was important that the adviser put the client’s interests ahead of their own.
3. Clients who understand how their adviser is paid are more likely to believe they’re getting value for money. 80% of clients knew how their adviser was paid. Among that group, 94% were satisfied with the value for money they received.
4. The wealthier the client, the keener they are to understand the adviser’s compensation model. 62% of those with $1 million or more in investable assets said it was extremely important, compared to 50% of those with investable assets of less than $300,000.
5. Clients who know their adviser’s compensation are more confident about retirement and more satisfied with their adviser. 79% of clients who knew how the adviser was paid before engaging with them were highly satisfied, as opposed to to 49% who didn’t know. Of those who knew their adviser’s compensation, 61% felt highly confident about their readiness for retirement, compared to 48% who didn’t.
6. Clients with a long-term care plan or estate plan are more confident about retirement and more satisfied with their adviser. 74% with an estate plan felt highly satisfied with their adviser, as opposed to 65% without an estate plan. Of those with a long-term care plan, 65% felt highly confident about retirement, compared to 54% without.
7. Clients who check their investments more than four times a year are less likely to believe they get value from their adviser. 91% of those who check their investments less than four times a year feel they receive adequate value from their adviser, as opposed to 82% of those who check more than four times a year.
8. Clients with a formal written plan are more likely to be highly confident about retirement and see more value in fees. 65% of them felt highly confident about their retirement preparedness as opposed to 54% of those with an adviser who did not provide a written plan. And 81% with a written plan were highly satisfied with their adviser, compared to 67% without.
9. Those who believe they have the right amount of life insurance are more likely to feel highly satisfied with their adviser. 77% of respondents said they feel highly satisfied with their adviser if they feel like they have the correct amount of life insurance, as opposed to 68% who don’t, and 62% who are unsure if they have the correct amount.
10. The more interactions the adviser has with them, the more satisfied clients are with the value they’re receiving. Twice as many clients felt they didn’t receive value for the adviser’s fees if they met between two and three times a year as opposed to four or more times a year. More than three-and-a-half times as many clients felt they did not receive value for the fee if they only met once a year compared to four or more a year.
11. Clients value education on managing their investments and on dealing with retirement risks. Interestingly, more women than men consider education to be an important part of the adviser’s value proposition by a significant margin.
12. Clients are more likely to refer someone to their adviser if they have a formal written plan. They are also happier to refer relatives, friends and colleague if they are confident about their retirement and if they have a long term car plan.
LESSONS FOR ADVICE FIRMS
So what are the key takeaways from this research for financial advice and planning firms?
Carson Coaching’s Managing Director Jamie Hopkins believes that, because of the recent market upheaval and ongoing uncertainty over the state of the global economy, now is a perfect opportunity for firms to review their offering.
“With a notable uptick in individuals reaching out to financial advisers for the first time in their lives,” he says, “there’s no better time for advisers to re-examine and adjust their value proposition and how they engage with clients.”
For Hopkins, these are the most important areas to focus on.
Lead with planning
“The research shows that advisers should lead with planning if they want more satisfied clients,” says Hopkins. “And they should document those plans meticulously and communicate them thoughtfully and often. A written plan is best practice and gives confidence to the client.”
Be totally transparent about fees
“Part of showing your value is showing your fees. Instead of hiding fees or dodging the true cost of adviser services, fee transparency leads to more satisfied clients.
“The more assts the client has, the more likely it is that they are interested in understanding your compensation structure.”
Broaden your range of services
“Long-term care planning and estate planning can be complicated, but those with these plans saw much more value than those without. Long-term care and estate planning are not generally one-off plans — rather they are often some of the last planning topics covered. So, if a client has these in place, they are likely getting deep and meaningful planning.”
Interact with your clients more often
“The traditional once or twice a year reach out is simply not enough for most clients. An ongoing, personal relationship with an adviser can help clients see the value in having an adviser and increase overall satisfaction. If you want more highly satisfied clients, meet more often!”
Discourage clients from checking their investments!
“Clients who often check their investments could have an underlying concern that the adviser is not addressing. Advisers should monitor client activity and reach out to do more planning when clients are checking their investments frequently.”
Finally.. communicate your value better
Greg Opitz, Executive Business Consultant, at Carson Coaching agrees that focusing on financial planning is the single most important things advisers should be doing.
But, he says, firms also need to improve the way they communicate their value to clients.
“What I see every day is that many advisers are doing planning, but they’re doing a horrible of educating their clients on the value of the plan,” he says.
“They have to spend more time doing just that. There is the value add.
“You (i.e. the planner) think about this all day every day. Your clients (think about it) only two, three or four times a year.
“You have to reinforce it: ‘Here’s how I add value, here is what this planning process does, here’s the true wealth experience we deliver.’ You can’t say that one time and expect them to always get it.
“Advisers out there who understand that they sell an outcome, and that outcome if confidence, certainty, peace of mind — those are the folk who are gaining market share. They’re gaining referrals. They’re growing their business. They sell confidence, and planning is the vehicle to get there.”
You can read the full report here.
This article was first publish on the Suitable Advice Institute website.
If you would like help defining your value proposition and explaining it your clients and prospects, why not get in touch with our colleagues at Regis Media? You can either make contact via the website or email Sam Willet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picture: Amy Hirschi via Unsplash
You can read the full report here.