Few advisors are fully prepared for succession, and 81 percent believe the industry does not do a good job of helping representatives with planning, says a new survey.

The survey was released by broker-dealer Signator Investors, and it was the first major press announcement since John Hancock Financial Network, a national network of independent firms with approximately 1,600 financial professionals, announced yesterday that it would market itself to advisors under the Signator name. JHFN's advisor Web site and related marketing materials will now be branded with "Signator Investors Inc., powered by John Hancock Financial Network."

The online survey, conducted by Mathew Greenwald & Associates of more than 500 financial professionals, found that only 11 percent have a completed succession plan. Thirty-four percent have started, but not completed a plan. Forty-four percent of respondents said they’ve thought about making a plan and 12 percent said they have not even thought about creating a succession plan.

While 81 percent of respondents feel the industry does not do a good job to help advisors plan for succession, 55 percent agree that they are too busy with their practice to think about succession planning. Fifty-three percent agree that they procrastinate too much when addressing this issue.

According to the survey, many advisors plan to retire gradually. Fifty-two percent say they intend to reduce their practice activities before they retire, and 42 percent currently have a plan in place to continue working with key clients. Another 45 percent say they intend to create a plan to work with key clients.

Many advisors do not feel knowledgeable about aspects of succession planning, such as finding a successor or obtaining a valuation of their business.

Client service is a key consideration for advisors, the survey found,with 56 percent saying that leaving clients with a lower level of service is a concern, and 47 percent agreeing that they do not believe they will be able to find someone who will service their clients as well as they do.

Sharing a philosophy with a protégé and working with them for a number of years are key considerations in hiring someone to take over their practice, according to respondents. Thirty percent of advisors report having a protégé now. Among those who do not, 67 percent say they plan to hire one.