Financial advisors are optimistic their revenue will grow faster in 2013 than it did this year, when results fell short of their expectations, a new survey says.

Advisors are bullish that next year they will see a rise in return on assets – the ratio of a firm’s revenue to assets under management, according to global asset manager Russell Investments' Financial Professional Outlook, its latest quarterly survey of U.S. advisors. ROA growth expectations fell short for many advisors, the survey said.

Advisors say they're more optimistic about ROA next year compared with 2012, reporting an expectation of 8.4 percent growth on average. Two-thirds of respondents said the current ROA on their books of business is 80 basis points or less.

“Return on assets is one important metric for goal-setting around business growth, alongside other key indicators such as recurring revenue, total revenue per client, AUM per client and clients per full-time employee,” Sam Ushio, practice management consultant for Russell’s U.S. advisor-sold business, said in a statement. “ROA provides insight into the revenue efficiency of the advisor’s asset base.”

“Based on our research, we believe that a reasonable ROA level is around 70 - 90 basis points on the overall business," Ushio added. "If an advisor is earning less, it may indicate that they are still using a transactional business model. At a deeper level, a lower ROA may reflect an advisor’s tendency to discount the value they deliver to clients, which often correlates with confusion on the competitive landscape.”

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents said next year they will focus on deepening client relationships to help grow ROA across their businesses. Fifty-eight percent of advisors say they’ll be seeking out new clients to grow ROA, 53 percent said they’re asking for referrals, 43 percent indicated they’ll be moving clients into fee-based relationships, and 32 percent said they will be moving client cash off the “sidelines.”

Advisors’ ROA growth expectations and strategies vary by client segment. When asked which of their client segments they expect to see the most ROA growth from in 2013, 64 percent of advisors cited clients nearing or very near retirement. Sixty percent of advisors said they expect the most growth from clients less than five years from retirement. The most popular strategy for increasing ROA is focusing on client service and deepening relationships.

Seattle-based Russell Investments is a global asset manager that works with institutional investors, financial advisors and individuals. The company had an estimated $159 billion in assets under management as of Sept. 30 and works with 2,400 institutional client and more than 580 independent distribution partners.