Clients consider trustworthiness more important than investment management skills when choosing a financial advisor, says the CFA Institute/Edelman Investor Trust Study released today.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said whether an advisor was "trusted to act in my best interest" was the most important factor when hiring an advisor. The "ability to achieve high returns" was cited half as often, at 17 percent, and the advisor’s fee structure was important to just seven percent of respondents.

“Returns are what investors pay their managers to achieve; but investors make the decision to hire and continue to work with those who demonstrate a commitment to professional standards of ethical conduct that are in the investor’s best interests,” said John Rogers, president and CEO of CFA Institute.

The public relations firm Edelman Berland conducted online interviews of over 2,100 retail and institutional investors to better understand what shapes their perceptions of trust in investment managers.

Respondents rated investment management firms as the least trusted industry to do what is right. Of eight industries mentioned, technology ranked highest in trust at 67 percent while financial services was cited last at 53 percent.

The survey also found that retail investors are less trusting of the industry (51 percent) than institutional investors (61 percent).

Kurt Schacht, managing director at CFA Institute, feels the lack of trust goes back to the financial crisis, the fact that taxpayers had to bail out the financial services industry and the lack of punishment of those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis.

“Clients are looking at this like never before; [trust] is now a major feature of any hire that an advisor will be subjected to,” he said.

To build trust, the study points to three behavior related attributes: transparent and open business practices; responsible actions to address an issue or a crisis; and ethical business practices.