Soft skills are becoming more important for financial advisors, key executives at Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo and Charles Schwab said at an Investment Company Institute seminar Thursday.

“The right brain is becoming on a par with the left brain for advisors. We’ve trained an industry to solve math problems and our clients need philosophical problems solved,” said Andy Sieg, head of global wealth and retirement solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Bob Vorlop, head of products and advice for Wells Fargo Advisors, added clients are expecting advisors to become more engaged in their lives than just recommending investments.

“There is an art, not just a science, to being a financial advisor,” he said.

In recognition of clients’ desires to consult with advisors more than just on their portfolios, Charles Schwab Advisor Services Executive Vice President Bernard Clark said psychologists are often part of advisor teams, while Merrill Lynch is beginning a gerontological certification program for advisors this year.

A large driver of the move to more handholding is the fear put in place by the recent recession that has led many retail investors to seek peace of mind more than higher returns from advisors.

Sieg added retail investors are at a watershed moment at which impact investing is becoming mainstream. The panelists noted people want their investments to reflect their values and that desire is high for baby boomers and more intense for younger investors.

Wells Fargo’s Vorlop cautioned as investment products become more complex, advisors should be doing a better job at explaining to customers how these financial vehicles can meet their needs.

“More complex isn’t necessarily always better for our clients,” said Vorlop.