(Dow Jones) For financial advisors, an obvious path to success is to seek out clients with deep pockets. And that would seem to mean shunning prospects who fall below a certain minimum-say, $1 million in assets to invest.
The reality is less simple. Many successful advisors build lucrative practices without enforcing minimums or focusing on asset size as a key criterion.
That's one of the findings in a newly released Best Practices study by Quantuvis Consulting, a subsidiary of Genworth Financial. Among top-performing advisors, 69% put a premium of size of assets when targeting potential clients, according to the study. Among less successful advisers, an even greater group-83%-put a premium on asset size.
On the whole, that still indicates that top advisors (defined as those in the top 25% based on income) like to bring aboard wealthy clients. But apparently not with the same degree of fervor-or perhaps desperation-as those advisors in the remaining pool.
"It does appear to be counterintuitive," says Don Gartlan, a director with Russell Investments' consulting services group. But Gartlan is quick to offer a reason why it makes sense: "Successful advisors run businesses. They don't run books."
Indeed, many advisors say building a profitable practice is more about finding clients who are the right match rather than finding clients who bring in the most money. What good is a well-heeled client if they are also an extremely demanding one, who will take up far more of an advisor's time than the fees generated justify? Conversely, why turn away a less lucrative client when their portfolio can easily be managed and planning needs quickly met?
"You see these advisors in their nicely pressed suits saying, 'I only take clients with $500,000.' All that is doing is limiting their business," says Ty J. Young, an Atlanta advisor with his own wealth-management firm. Young adds that he enforces no minimum, since more clients generally means more money. "As long as you have a good fit up-front, it's generally not a lot of additional work" to bring on smaller accounts, he says.
There's also the chance a "poor" client can become a rich one down the road. Michael Bilotta, managing director of Gladstone Associates, a Philadelphia firm that helps advisors buy or sell practices, points to the example of a prospective client who owns a business. Today, that business owner might be cash-poor. But what happens when they sell the business? "There can be a huge windfall," says Bilotta.
Even advisors who enforce minimums say there are exceptions to the rule, such as children of established wealthy clients. Advisors can't afford to offend those who pay their bills-and then some-no matter what low-paying accounts they add to the mix.
"We're absolutely seeing firms bring those (low-paying) clients on," says Natalie Doss, research manager at Quantuvis Consulting.