Financial advisors overlook or misread fundamental client behavior, according to EY

EY's 2014 Wealth Management Survey highlights three areas of focus for wealth managers to grow and improve their businesses

May 19, 2014, 09:30 ET from Ernst & Young LLP

NEW YORK, May 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Financial advisors (FAs) and their clients in the Americas do not always see eye to eye when it comes to identifying key elements driving their relationship, according to EY's third annual Wealth Management Survey, released today. The survey identifies three key themes that will help wealth management firms and their financial advisors improve client acquisition, service and retention.

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"Often, wealth management firms listen only to financial advisors when they seek to understand client preferences and the important trends, issues and challenges facing their industry. Unfortunately, this provides an incomplete view of the needs and desires of wealth management clients," said Juan Carlos Lopez, Executive Director, Wealth Management at Ernst & Young LLP. "This year, we elicited comprehensive feedback from both advisors and their clients to compare and contrast views on key trends driving the industry and identify gaps and opportunities to improve relationships across the client lifecycle."

The survey identifies three key areas of opportunity for wealth managers to improve and grow their businesses.

Advisors overestimate the importance of their role

Financial advisors tend to overvalue the importance of their relationships with clients, while misreading the relevance of factors like firm reputation, fees, segment specific strategies and product access.

In fact, after years of focusing on liquidity and wealth preservation post-2008, portfolio performance regains the top spot on clients' minds, ranking well above the relationship with their advisor among the factors keeping clients with their wealth managers. Furthermore, clients value a firm's reputation over that of the individual advisor when choosing a new wealth manager, which emphasizes a need for advisors to have a strong brand backing them to help attract new clients.

Additionally, clients indicated that while competitive fees are less important when choosing a new wealth manager, they become more important later in the relationship and they are the top reason they choose to switch to a new advisor. Clients ranked competitive fees second only to poor portfolio performance when it comes to reasons they switched wealth managers.

Trends in holistic goal-based planning and generational wealth transfer

Advisors and clients agree that holistic goal-based planning and generational wealth transfer are two of the most relevant trends but wealth managers are yet to implement effective strategies to capitalize on these areas of opportunity.

While holistic goal-based planning is cited as the most important factor driving clients' assets to wealth managers, clients see little differentiation across the industry when it comes to an individual firm's approach to goal-based planning. Furthermore, clients perceive low value from their current firm's goal-based planning offering. This represents a tremendous opportunity for wealth management firms to provide not only a differentiated offering, but one that delivers value across the lifecycle to improve retention and wallet share.

Generational wealth transfer is also top of mind for clients, and it is the number one factor ranked by advisors as driving the future of their businesses. Wealth transfers are particularly timely as the last of the Baby Boomer generation enters retirement.  Compounding this is the fact that a large percentage of Baby Boomer advisors are preparing to retire as well, with little thought to client transition strategies. Therefore, wealth transfers pose a tremendous risk as well as an opportunity for wealth management firms to retain assets.  Acquiring and training the next generation of FAs and giving them the tools to acquire the next generation of clients will keep risk of flight assets in check. Firms need to better prepare their advisors on wealth transition execution strategies to capitalize on this critical trend.

Traditional channels are here to stay

Traditional channels are and will continue to be the primary medium though which clients interact with advisors over the next three to five years. Digital channels – such as social media and tablets – will play a complementary role. Still, both clients and advisors rank face-to-face communication, whether in or outside of a branch, as the highest and most relevant interaction.

Furthermore, clients and advisors agree that telephone and email correspondence will continue to be key channels, especially for convenience. While digital channels rank lower for both clients and advisors, opportunities for technology to expand and improve client-advisor interaction exist.

However, this will not replace traditional interaction options for clients. Neither clients nor advisors find digital communication to be a key factor in the acquisition, servicing or retention stages of the relationship lifecycle, and social media has yet to gain ground.

Channel preferences do, however, vary across wealth segments, illustrating the need for wealth management firms to invest in segmented channel offerings:

  • Ultra-high net worth clients (defined as those with investable assets of $25 million and over) see the branch as their preferred channel for interacting with an advisor.
  • High net worth clients (defined as those with investible assets of between $1 million and $25 million) expect more out-of-branch interactions to become their primary channel in the future, but they will continue making significant use of in-branch meetings.
  • Mass affluent clients (defined as those with investible assets between $250K and $1 million) prefer the telephone and e-mail over face-to-face interactions. They are, and will continue to be, the heaviest users of smartphones.

"Changing economic conditions and a burgeoning retirement demographic are putting the wealth management industry through a period of great change and great opportunity," said Nalika Nanayakkara, Principal at Ernst & Young LLP. "Wealth management firms that truly understand client and advisor needs, and the gaps in advisors' understanding of their clients, will be in a prime position to optimize their go-to-market strategy and capitalize on these opportunities."

EY's 2014 Wealth Management Survey contains data based on the responses to 19 questions from advisors and clients from varying geographies, wealth segments and demographics. The questions were designed to measure the importance of a broad set of wealth management industry topics such as client service and retention, communication, marketing, investing strategies, satisfaction and asset allocation.

About EY

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This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, a member of the global EY organization that provides services to clients in the US.



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SOURCE Ernst & Young LLP