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getting the boot fired

What Triggers the Affluent to Replace Their Advisor

Dissatisfaction rarely results in an affluent investor searching for a new advisor.

ORLANDO — “I was always told that poor service was the reason affluent clients fired their financial advisor,” opined Cory. With an air of authority, he then asked, “So now you’re telling us that it’s all about when they’ve accumulated a sizable amount of assets?”  

Cory had misunderstood what our data was telling him. The key words were prompted and search. In other words, these affluent prospects knew they needed a professional who was capable of handling the complexity of their family’s financial affairs.

Dissatisfaction with Current Advisor vs. Searching for New Advisor 

As I explained to Cory, this might seem like splitting hairs, but there’s a big difference between affluent dissatisfaction with their financial advisor and proactively searching for a new financial advisor. How so? Because, in our world of intangible services, the client is never really aware of what they’re supposed to be receiving until they’re later made aware that they’re not getting what was promised.

Affluent investors have reported dissatisfaction with advisor communication and service, which has been highlighted in our research. However, this dissatisfaction rarely results in an affluent investor searching for a new advisor. It’s out of sight, out of mind, unless a major faux pas occurs or this dissatisfaction is stirred-up by another advisor who is skilled in the art of affluent sales.

Circumstances That Lead to Searching for a New Advisor

When investors accumulate a higher level of assets that requires more sophisticated financial solutions, or experience a financial life event (e.g., receiving an inheritance, selling a business), their needs become “top of mind.” These circumstances tend to stimulate word-of-mouth-influence—they start asking around. The data outlined below speaks directly as to what prompted an affluent investor’s search for a financial advisor:

What prompted your search for your current financial advisor?  
Accumulated enough assets 43 percent
Financial life event 24 percent
Unhappy with former advisor 13 percent
Other 13 percent
Not enough time to “do-it-yourself” 7 percent

The message for financial advisors is clear: possessing the knowledge and professionalism to oversee the complexity of the multi-dimensional aspects of an affluent client’s financial affairs is a basic requirement for working with today’s affluent. The days of one-dimensional investment advice are over. 

The last thing you want to happen is for your clients to reach a level of affluence and as a result, begin looking for another financial advisor. Word-of-mouth-influence works both ways, and word will get around that you’re not equipped to handle larger clients with more complex financial needs. Ouch!

This requires that you have a clearly defined process for delivering comprehensive wealth management services. You need to be able to masterfully showcase your services to referral alliance partners as well as prospects, and of course, consistently deliver these services to your affluent clients. It’s also important to be able to articulate your services in small sound bites when in conversation. Armed with the knowledge that accumulating larger sums of assets will prompt a search (if the current advisor is perceived as unqualified), you want to make certain that word-of-mouth-influence is working for you at all times, so that you’re top of mind.

Scope of Search for Advisor

This leads to our next grouping of data. We were curious as to how extensively the affluent searched for a new advisor. As you can see in the data points below, their search was not very extensive.

How many other advisors did you consider before engaging your current advisor?  
Zero 41 percent
One 20 percent
Two 20 percent
Three or more 15 percent
Unsure 4 percent

Assuming that the “unsure” responses met with more than a couple of financial advisors during their search, 19 percent of today’s affluent were actually shopping around. 

What does all of this tell us? That the largest segment (41 percent) is hiring the financial advisor who was recommended and made a great impression during the meeting. 

When CPAs and attorneys are making recommendations, it’s not unusual for two or three financial advisors to be suggested. This is a contributing factor as to why 20 percent meet with at least one other advisor, and 20 percent meet with two. The bottom line is that your job is to win that prospect by making a great impression during the meeting.

The competition is fierce for affluent prospects. Yet, these findings suggest that their search for an advisor was prompted by the perception that their current advisor was not equipped to handle the complex affairs of the affluent. 

Word-of-mouth-influence continues to play a critical role, but when 59 percent of the time you’re going to be in competition with one or more advisors, it would be wise to get some feedback on how you conduct your initial in-office meeting with an affluent prospect. You have only one chance to make that first “great impression” during the meeting.   


Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent

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