Of the more than two dozen whitepapers we’ve produced over the last six years, Advisory Firms in 2030: The Innovation Imperative, has sparked more conversations in the first two weeks since we launched it than most have in total.  Why? I believe we’ve expressed a wakeup call for advisory businesses that want to be relevant 10 years from now.  

We launched the paper at the 2019 annual FPA conference in Minneapolis, but the idea for the Innovation Imperative paper began in May with a brainstorming session that included representatives of the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®), and SEI.  I vividly remember sitting in a hotel lobby as we shared ideas and opinions about the evolving business of advice, and whether advisors were preparing themselves for the future.  We discussed what services could be added, how marketing would change and the role of technology.  

Our discussion prompted us to move forward with a research paper that looked how advisors can plan for today’s changing consumer. We’ll follow up with “micro papers” that dig deeper into a few concepts.   

Takeaways from our Innovation Imperative paper

Consider some of the highlights our research uncovered:

  • A majority of advisors selected “offers financial or life planning” and “fosters personal connections” as a differentiator of their business.  Frankly, that is not a differentiator nor is it scalable in the future.
  • Most advisors don’t consider millennials as “ideal” clients; millennials came in second-to-last in the survey, just above celebrities and athletes. Even though this generation is huge and households headed by millennials earn more than other generations did at the same age, most firms haven’t created pricing or service models to support them.
  • Advisors still segment according to what is important to them, not their clients.  Advisors don’t focus on niches, services models or the efficiencies that can come with them.  
  • Most advisors don’t have a plan.

You can read more of the findings but I imagine you get the point.  Most advisors are not prepared to serve the customer of the future.

Press coverage for our viewpoint 

How advisors can stay relevantA recent article in Financial Advisor Magazine, Financial Planners Could End Up Like Mall Retailers, really captured the essence of the conversation that we had both in the hotel lobby in May and in Minneapolis.  Today’s consumer expects to be offered choice, personalization and transparency. Advisors have to offer those to compete -- or go the way of some of those mall retailers that are no longer in business. 

Other press coverage we’ve received includes:

We’re getting started on the micro papers today. We’ll look at how the advisory firm of the future will grow and staff up, and how to better understand the evolving consumer’s perspective.  In the meantime, consider also downloading our earlier paper, Advisory Firms in 2030: The innovation imperative. Our research can help you evaluate where your firm is today and whether it’s prepared to stay relevant the future.  I believe our newest paper serves as a wakeup call for advisory firms about the need to adapt -- and I hope you answer it.  

Legal Note

The FPA® is not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries. The FPA® and SEI jointly conducted an online survey in August 2019 with 436 financial planners.


Legal Note

Information provided by Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI, a strategic business unit of SEI Investments Company. The content is for educational purposes only and is not meant to provide investment advice or as a guarantee of any specific outcome. While SEI welcomes comments, SEI is not responsible for, and does not endorse, the opinions, advice, or recommendations posted by third parties. The opinions expressed in comments are the view(s) of the commenter(s), and do not represent the views of SEI or its affiliates. SEI reserves the right to remove any content posted by users of this site in its sole discretion.

Join the Practically Speaking community

We're your go-to source for tips on how to better manage your advisory business.


I understand SEI may send future emails to me, even if I opted-out before, and that I can opt-out again later.
Photo of John Anderson