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What Do Clients Want from Their Financial Advisor?

Joe Buhrmann July 18, 2023

A financial advisor conducting an investment review meeting with clients.
Updated on: December 13, 2023

The wealth management industry is facing a new set of challenges, including an increased demand for financial advice from a changing demographic. To keep up with this change, it’s worth asking yourself: What do clients actually want from their financial advisor?

From your service offerings to the ways in which you work with them, there are a number of factors that clients consider when they are working with a financial professional. It’s important to take these factors into account when creating your financial advisor business plan and curating your client experience.

Client Expectations vs. Reality: Do Your Service Offerings Match Up?

Nearly all advisors are offering retirement and investment planning. But what about all of the other questions that clients may have about their financial lives?

Only about half of advisors are offering estate planning, charitable planning, or help with cash flow and budgeting. Fewer still offer help to business owners with exit or sales strategies. And while nearly two thirds are offering insurance planning, those figures are considerably lower for those in the RIA and banking channels.1

However, people are looking for financial advice beyond retirement and investment planning, and they are looking to get it in the same place. In fact, a survey found that 71 percent of Millennials–and 57 percent of all respondents–would prefer to do most of their financial business at one institution that can bring together the specialists and services they need.2

But what financial questions are people looking to have answered? According to our research, the top areas consumers are seeking advice on include preparing for retirement, improving their overall financial knowledge, and smart budgeting/spending habits.3 However, some areas tend to be ranked higher than others depending on the consumer’s age and financial status:

  • Smart budgeting/spending habits, saving for large purchases, and financial advice for couples are higher ranked among younger consumers.
  • Preparing for retirement, generating income in retirement, and managing money in a tax efficient way are higher ranked among older consumers and more affluent consumers.
  • Smart budget/spending habits, building an emergency fund, and saving for large purchases are higher ranked among less affluent consumers.

In addition, our research has found that one of the top priorities for financial advice is that it factors in all aspects of their lives.3 With that in mind, becoming a holistic financial planner should be top of mind for financial professionals looking to meet their clients’ new expectations for the financial industry. Young investors in particular want a financial plan that balances the transactional and emotional dimensions of their lives and brings in life-stage planning, value-based planning, and total well-being planning.4

There is a significant amount of money changing hands in the coming years due to intergenerational wealth transfer. As young investors grow their wealth, the demand for financial planning that goes beyond investment advice will continue to rise. If you haven’t incorporated holistic planning into your firm yet, now could be the right time to get started.

Going Beyond Your Service Offering: What Else Do Clients Want?

Your clients’ expectations aren’t limited to the list of the services you offer. It should go without saying that clients are also looking for a financial professional who is competent and has integrity. But are those qualities enough? The way you offer advice, transparency in your interactions, and the personalized experiences you provide are also qualities that prospective clients want.

Advice That Isn’t Overwhelming

Making financial decisions can be overwhelming. That’s why your clients are coming to you. While it may be tempting to offer your first-time clients twenty recommendations for how they should move forward, that will only overwhelm them. They might look at that long list of things to do, put it aside, and not complete any of them because they aren’t sure where to start. In fact, 22% of consumers reported being dissatisfied with their current financial advice because it was too complex to follow.3

Keep it simple by providing your clients with two or three recommendations at a time. You can get an easy win and then once you are finished with your initial recommendations, you can move on to the next three. Think of it like healthcare. You aren’t going to get all of the healthcare you need for the rest of your life at your first check-up. Like the relationship you have with your doctor, the relationship you and your clients have will last for years to come and you don’t have to pack everything into the first three months.

Transparency in Interactions

In a survey, 56% of all respondents cited transparency in interactions as an extremely important factor when choosing an advisor.Transparency means being open, honest, and straightforward in your interactions with clients–whether you’re discussing your services and fees or your recommendations. By being transparent, you will build the trust you need to have a productive, long-term planning relationship.

One way to create more transparency in your advisor-client relationship from the start is by establishing a service calendar. Utilizing a service calendar will allow you to easily inform your clients of all the services you may be providing in front of the client and behind the scenes. This helps you define your value to your prospective clients, and it sets expectations for what your clients are receiving for the fees they’re paying.

Now, if you ask 100 advisors, you’re probably going to get 100 different service calendars of varying duration and detail. When you develop your own calendar, you’ll want to call out when items like portfolios are being rebalanced or when plans will be reviewed. Take a holistic approach and include reviews for not only investments, but the entirety of their plan, including large and small goals, taxes, cash flow, insurance and estate planning, and even employee benefits or Medicare planning.

However, it is not enough to simply set expectations–you have to deliver on them, too. When your clients see that their planning experience aligns with the service calendar you have presented to them, it will build their trust in you and make them more open to your advice.

Along with employing a service calendar, utilizing a financial planning software solution that has a personal client portal makes it easy to offer transparency.

One of the top priorities for consumers is being able to easily assess and track their financial progress.3 A client portal that gives your clients a real-time, comprehensive picture of their personal finances and allows them to keep track of their goals will be invaluable for them.

A Personalized Experience

Roughly two-thirds of Americans say a personalized financial plan based on their goals would be an extremely or very important factor if they were considering a financial advisor.5

In addition, our research found that 6 in 10 consumers are not fully satisfied with the advice/guidance they have received. The top reason given for this is that the advice was “too generic/not personalized to my situation.”3 Rather than a one-size-fits-all planning experience, clients are looking for financial planning that is tailored to their unique needs and factors in all aspects of their lives.

Offering personalized services starts with segmenting your clients. Though your clients are looking for highly personalized experiences, keep in mind that not all clients need to be treated to the same exact experiences. The advice and services a 22-year-old client needs will be different from the advice and services a 72-year-old needs. Aligning the services you offer with the unique needs of each segment will improve your efficiency and your clients’ satisfaction.

If you are looking to expand and personalize your service offerings, another must is to leverage technology effectively. Planning software should be an integral part of your overall tech platform and workflows. It allows for data to flow seamlessly through your processes, providing a panoramic view of the client. Accurate, up-to-date data on your client’s complete financial picture is an anchor for expanded, personalized service offerings.

Adapt to Your Clients’ Wants to Help Your Business Thrive

Financial planning clients today want more than just retirement planning and investment management. They are looking for a personalized financial planning experience that factors in all aspects of their lives. And they want it all from a single advisor, with transparency into every interaction.

Utilizing the holistic financial planning process, developing a service calendar, segmenting your clients and your services, and leveraging technology are just a few of the ways you can give your clients what they want efficiently and effectively.

Interested in learning more about how to engage with the young investors who are now seeking financial advice? Explore what you need to know about working with young investors and find out the steps you can take now to win their business.

Sources:

1. U.S. Advisor Metrics. Cerulli. March 2023.

2. The Cerulli Edge. Cerulli. 2022.

3. eMoney 88 Million Consumer Research Study, April 2022, n=1,616.

4. eMoney Power to the Plan Research, July 2020, Advisors n=420, End clients n=403

5. Intelliflo survey, March 2022, n=2,067 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.

Image of Joe Buhrmann
About the Author

Joe serves as a Senior Financial Planning Practice Management Consultant at eMoney Advisor. With more than three decades in the financial services industry, Joe aligns his know-how and passion to help firms of all sizes increase usage, adoption, and engagement through a modern financial planning experience. He leverages his expertise and supports internal departments across the enterprise, helping Communications, Marketing, Relationship Management, and Sales. Joe attended Illinois State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Applied Computer Science and his MBA.

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