Client Communications

Second Annual Study of Advisory Success: A New Age of Client Communications and Client Expectations

Since Pershing’s 2013 Study of Advisory Success, we find that things are good today for many advisors—in fact, things are better than before. However, even the most successful advisors are increasingly worried about having enough time to get things done. The rising tide of client expectations and communication touch points present new challenges for growth-minded advisors.

Study of Advisory Success defines what success means for advisors in today’s environment and highlights the issues they face. Pershing’s inaugural study found that the most successful advisors anticipate what will lead the next generation of advisors. This year’s study finds that successful advisors adapt to client communications and client expectations.

Twenty years ago, advisors connected with clients through three primary channels: telephone, mail and meeting. Today, these channels have been joined by dozens of other options. For some, the variety—and the time it takes to master them—can be dizzying. Technological advances drive this revolution. For example, in 2014, there will be more mobile devices on earth than people.1 Meanwhile, a new generation of digital communication tools, from e-mail to social media, have become further ingrained in our lives and preferences. The bar for effective communications between advisors and clients continues to rise.

In this year’s study, we examine advisors’ perceptions of their communications, digital presence, value proposition and overall success level. We identify opportunities for advisors to strengthen their connections and grow their businesses. The results may also help advisors feel greater satisfaction from their work and deepen their client relationships.

Pulse Check: Positive Momentum, But Still Room to Grow

In our new research, the largest segment of advisors (38%) reported that their business is “doing better than ever before,” which is a significant rise from the 31% who fell into this same category in 2012.

It would be easy to dismiss this sense of stronger momentum as solely a reflection of recent record market performance—a rise of nearly 30% in the S&P 500 in 2013.2 However, advisors do not measure success based exclusively on assets under management. Advisors define their success through positive impact on clients, which trumps financial gain.

In fact, this sentiment has become more pronounced since last year—71% (up from 66%) of advisors say “positively impacting the lives of my clients” is their top criterion for success.

I’m on Top, Not Those Guys

Nearly half of advisors (48%) believe they have achieved the highest level of success, scoring themselves as 8, 9 or 10 on a 1–10 scale. However, only 21% believe the average success of other advisors is at that same level. Such perceptions invite a comparison to Garrison Keillor’s fictitious Lake Wobegon, where “all the children are above average.”3 The gap between perception and reality might be explained by overconfidence, or simply each advisor’s sense that his or her hard work is achieving a measurable advantage over other advisors.

Surprisingly, advisors who believe they are the most successful are also less likely to have written business plans or succession plans. Such advisors, hyper-focused on maintaining today’s momentum, may miss out on growth opportunities that formal goals and action plans would facilitate.

Right for Me, Maybe Not for You

Most respondents continue to enjoy the career field they’ve chosen, with 69% saying that they are very satisfied being an advisor. Yet, surprisingly, many are hesitant to encourage the next generation to enter the field. Only 37% would recommend the profession to their children or another young person. Even among advisors “doing better than ever,” less than half (49%) would make a recommendation.

Such hesitancy might indicate that professional careers are evolving in ways that make future success appear daunting. In the medical field, for example, a 2012 Physicians Foundation survey found that 58% of physicians would not recommend medicine as a career to their children or to other younger people.4

As in medicine, that act of helping people underpins career success for financial advisors. Accordingly, there appears to be a serious need for advisors to seek a stronger, more dynamic relationship with clients. The challenge, as with most major efforts, is the lack of time. Nearly two-thirds of advisors (63%) are concerned about “having enough time to get things done.” In this environment, it’s important for advisors to become more efficient and effective as they communicate with and serve their clients.

Pershing’s Second Annual Study of Advisory Success: A New Age of Client Communications and Client Expectations focuses on the way advisors connect with their clients in today’s social media revolution:

  • Three distinguishing features of advisors who say they are “doing better than ever before”
  • Frequently missed opportunities to reach out to clients
  • How attitudes toward technology are changing—in a surprising new direction
  • Assessing your own online presence from your clients’ perspective
  • Getting a jump start on using social media to manage your brand
  • Six tips for making the most of today’s myriad communications channels

Click here to read Second Annual Study of Advisory Success: A New Age of Client Communications and Client Expectations and the view the corresponding infographics.

1 Cisco, Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2013–2018, 2014.
2 Gibson, Kate (2013, December 31). Wall Street closes 2013 at records; best year in 16 for S&P, 18 for Dow, CNBC. Access Online: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101303244.
3 Keillor, Garrison. A Prairie Home Companion.
4 The Physicians Foundation, Practicing Patterns and Perspectives, 2012.

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