With so much skepticism of Wall Street following numerous bailouts, mismanagement and scandals, investors are fleeing to independent wealth management firms by the thousands. But whether or not investors remain with a Wall Street brokerage for their advice needs, their general expectations of their financial planners are changing. Here are some things they might be looking for.
Broad Resources And Custom Service
Investors are seeking wealth management firms that have large-scale resources, but not at the cost of crucial custom service. They don't want a firm so large they're never able to speak to senior level advisors and instead get handed off to junior staffers. But they also don't want a firm so small they'll have to depend on the expertise of one person alone, such as the founder. They prefer to find a firm that's "just right."
Firms with a diverse team of experts in tax planning, estate planning, college planning and retirement are in a good position. Such a firm should be able to give clients a comprehensive review of their financial situation and create the most appropriate plans to manage client wealth.
Succession Plan In Place
Investors want to feel confident that the person helping manage their financial affairs will be around for the long haul. No one wants to get comfortable with an advisor only to have that person move on-not when it comes to something as important as their wealth.
But realistically, it happens. When it does, investors expect the new advisor to be aware of their financial needs and plans and to have all the necessary background to seamlessly pick up where the last advisor left off. Having a succession plan in place for everybody from the founder to the top advisor to those in research is extremely important to ensure the smooth continuity of services.
What's Best For The Client
When they are getting a recommendation from a financial advisor, investors expect their interests to come first. Firms that act independently are at liberty to provide the most appropriate solutions for their clients without having to recommend proprietary products.
Freedom To Offer Appropriate Advice
Investors will likely seek out a firm with the freedom to provide advice on any stock or mutual fund, rather than a firm whose advisors can only give advice on the stocks they research themselves, or on mutual funds for which they have selling agreements. Independent advisors can offer interested clients the latest information on any stock or mutual fund.
Investors benefit greatly when their advisors are able to present them with solutions using unbiased research. When a firm has access to a research team, clients have access to the most up-to-date information. Teams whose sole function is research are able to seek out the most information available on a given stock or mutual fund, without having to divide their time among other functions. They are also able to devote time to performing due diligence on all investment opportunities.
Credibility And Solid Referrals
Credibility is important for both individual financial advisors and the firms they represent. It helps if advisors and firms have received recognition such as high rankings in various industry publications' top advisor lists, have published works or been quoted in relevant publications, have been endorsed by third parties or have become trusted as sources of information themselves. Even if your firm is touted as a good place to work, it can give investors valuable insight into your culture. Firms whose advisors are proud to be a part of that team usually deliver higher levels of customer service than firms whose advisors are dissatisfied with their workplace.
In addition to reviewing this information, investors are also likely to ask around when trying to select the right wealth management firm. Advisors and their firms need to have solid referrals to offer to prospective clients. There is no better validation than from someone who the firm has already worked with and with whom they've built a strong level of trust.
Another way for prospective clients to get a glimpse of a firm's culture and values is through its philanthropic activities and community involvement. Knowing that a firm and its advisors are socially conscious and involved with the community they serve can provide a sense of familiarity with investors.