High-Net-Worth Investors Rank Personalization and Trust as Most Important Factors for Productive Advisor Relationships

December 4, 2018

OAKS, Pa., Dec. 4, 2018 – A report released today by Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI (NASDAQ: SEIC) and the Financial Planning Association® (FPA) reveals high-net-worth (HNW) investors weigh personalization and overall client experience as equally important as trust and transparency when determining overall satisfaction with their advisors. “Your High-Net-Worth Client Strategy” indicates that personalizing the client experience while building and sustaining client trust is key for advisors to help retain those clients and maintain productive relationships. 

“High-net-worth clients expect exceptional client experiences in all facets of their lives. Luxury hospitality and retail brands, as well as the concierge physician sector, often deliver a superior, personal experience, helping to set the service standard in their respective industries,” said John Anderson, Managing Director and Head of Practice Management Solutions at Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI. “While technology and investment performance contribute to overall client satisfaction, our research shows that fostering trust and personalizing the investor experience can help advisors consistently meet, or exceed, clients’ expectations. The advisory industry lacks an existing standard, and we have an opportunity to create one.”

What’s Missing? The Trust Factor

SEI’s proprietary research found that 85 percent of surveyed HNW investors are either very satisfied or satisfied with their primary financial advisor relationship. When asked what the most important reason for their levels of satisfaction, investors ranked overall relationship, trustworthiness and honesty, and investment performance as the top three. However, the report also reveals that only 26 percent of HNW investors feel they are getting enough information from their advisor to accept their recommendation, and just 44 percent trust their advisors enough to take their guidance at face value¹. 

Meanwhile, the majority (91 percent) of advisors surveyed said that HNW clients would rank trustworthiness and dependability as important characteristics. These findings uncover that trust – rooted in tailored, highly personalized service – can be the currency of success for advisors serving the often-elusive HNW market segment.

“Our research reinforces that simple ‘satisfaction’ may not be good enough when serving this market segment. Advisors should consider workflows, client journey maps and investor personas to solidify the client experience,” added Anderson. “Clients engage at various points in the financial planning process, and advisors should make each of those engagements meaningful – from the initial transaction to multi-generational planning. Trust evolves over time, and it’s vital to demonstrate trustworthiness in every interaction.” 

How Do Advisors Get There? The Platinum Rule of Advisor Service

According to the report, 63 percent of HNW investor respondents find high value or very high value in an advisor who personalizes advice². Without standardized guidance, advisors are uncertain how to formulate that personalization for HNW clients.

SEI’s “Platinum Rule of Advisor Service,” which is 100 percent client-focused, stands to serve as the industry standard. The Platinum Rule is defined by an approach that is characterized as: 

•    Personal: Communications and advice that are customized and thoughtful 
•    Highly responsive: Immediate recognition of calls or inquiries 
•    Empathetic: Deep understanding of a client’s feelings and concerns
•    Error-free: Zero tolerance for errors of any kind
•    Consistent: Every client interaction met by the highest standard of excellence
•    Complete: Non-negotiable follow-up and follow-through
•    “Wow-able:” Going above and beyond what is expected

Advisors need to ask clients what they expect up front, according to SEI’s report. The best advisors continually look for ways to reduce sources of frustration and capitalize on opportunities to improve the client experience. To be innovative and offer the broadest solution suite possible, advisors should consider outsourcing non-core activities, so they can spend more time on personalization and building trust. “Your High-Net-Worth Client Strategy” features four of the industry’s most successful advisors who cater to HNW investors, and these pros agree that establishing and growing trust through personalization and tailored communications are vital to client retention. They recommend advisors should:

•    Hone their niches and segment their clients – the narrower, the better. For example, focusing on HNW investors with $1 million in investable assets is too broad to classify as a niche. However, middle-aged HNW investors with special needs children in a geographic area can be identified as a niche. A segmentation-by-service offering enables more personal interaction and better anticipation of clients’ needs. 
•    Carefully craft the value proposition. Be distinctive, targeted, measurable, defendable and sustainable in one or two sentences. 
•    Assess and fine-tune the service model. Model the service process like the investment process and practice discipline.

“SEI’s proprietary research findings show that high-net-worth investors value a qualitative wealth management experience driven by trust,” said Frank Paré, Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), 2018 President of the Financial Planning Association. “FPA supports high standards of professional competence, ethical conduct, and clear, complete disclosure when serving clients as evidenced by CFP professional members of FPA who work to elevate the financial planning profession.”

¹Source: CEB 2018 Client Experience Survey; n=229; This question was asked of clients who reported taking action on advisors’ guidance at least a quarter of the time.

²Source: CEB 2018 Client Experience Survey; n=253.

Methodology

SEI’s online advisor survey was conducted in July 2018, generating 375 responses to better understand how advisors target, attract and serve high-net-worth clients. SEI partnered with Phoenix Marketing International and surveyed 957 affluent U.S. households to track how their investment accounts are serviced, the type and frequency of communication with the investor, and the opinions of the advisor. For this paper, SEI focused exclusively on the responses from 347 high-net-worth investor households with $1 million to $4,999,999 in investable assets. Phoenix Marketing International is not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries.

Participants in SEI’s advisor survey primarily serve the emerging and mass affluent market segments ($125,000 to $250,000 and $250,000 to $999,000 in investable assets, respectively). For the purposes of this report, SEI qualifies true HNW advisors as those whose client base comprises predominantly (over 70 percent) of households with $1 million or more in investable assets. Just under one-third of the respondents’ current client base (28 percent) meets SEI’s definition of a high-net-worth advisor.

About The SEI Advisor Network 

The SEI Advisor Network, now Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI, provides independent financial advisors with wealth management services through outsourced investment strategies, administration and technology services, and practice management programs. It is through these services that SEI helps advisors save time, grow revenues, and differentiate themselves in the market. With a history of financial strength, stability, and transparency, the SEI Advisor Network has been serving the independent financial advisor market for more than 25 years, has 7,500 advisors who work with SEI, and $67.1 billion in advisors’ assets under management (as of Sept. 30, 2018). The SEI Advisor Network is a strategic business unit of SEI. 

About SEI

After 50 years in business, SEI (NASDAQ:SEIC) is a leading global provider of investment processing, investment management, and investment operations solutions that help corporations, financial institutions, financial advisors, and ultra-high-net-worth families create and manage wealth. As of Sept. 30, 2018, through its subsidiaries and partnerships in which the company has a significant interest, SEI manages, advises or administers $920 billion in hedge, private equity, mutual fund and pooled or separately managed assets, including $339 billion in assets under management and $576 billion in client assets under administration. 

About Financial Planning Association

The Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) is the principal professional organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM (CFP®) professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who are committed to elevating the profession that transforms lives through the power of financial planning. Through a collaborative effort to provide members with tools and resources for professional education, business support, advocacy and community, FPA is the indispensable resource in the advancement of today’s CFP® professional. Learn more about FPA at www.OneFPA.org and follow on Twitter at twitter.com/fpassociation. FPA is not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries.