Most mass affluent consumers like their local retail bank branch––or “stores,” as some in the industry like to call them––for certain things, but not much more than that. According to a survey of 400 mass affluent consumers (with liquid investable assets ranging from $100,000 to $3 million) by marketing and technology firm HNW Inc., a lot of people view their retail bank relationships as “remote and limited,” and they often keep just a small percentage of their moveable assets at the bank.
Part of the problem is that many consumers don’t see their bank as the best option for investment services. As detailed in a report entitled, The Elephant In The Branch: Retail Banking And The Mass Affluent Opportunity, 39% of respondents either strongly agreed or moderately agreed with the statement that a retail bank-based financial advisor isn’t sophisticated and lacks the knowledge and insight needed to manage their portfolio. Another 35% moderately disagreed, while just 18% strongly disagreed.
Another 39% either strongly agreed or moderately agreed with the statement that these advisors represent the “B” staff of financial advisors who couldn’t make it at a wealth management firm. Another 32% moderately disagreed, and just 13% strongly disagreed.
That said, 58% of respondents either strongly agreed or moderately agreed that retail bank-based advisors could help them plan for their longer-term financial goals.
One thing is clear: The supermarket approach to financial services fostered by the demise of the Glass-Steagall Act hasn’t been a raging success. “It strains of credibility to expect investors to put all of their eggs in one basket,” says Stacey Haefele, CEO at New York City-based HNW. She adds that banks can do certain things to extend their reach into the finances of their customers.
“To be credible, banks need to offer products that investors care about,” Haefele says. That includes offering products that people can’t get elsewhere, providing an open architecture that doesn’t just focus on proprietary products and offering competitive pricing. And, she adds, they need to provide “good advice that has the customers’ interest at heart and not what you need to sell them.”