One-third of all affluent investors surveyed plan to take greater control of their finances, though that perspective is not as widely shared by investors with portfolios of $3 million to $7 million, who will continue to rely on professional advisors. About a sixth of all wealthy investors are considering legal action against their primary advisors, but nearly one-quarter of the wealthiest investors are likely to do so. Relatively very few affluent investors will give more money or referrals to their primary advisors, but to the extent this will occur, it's more prevalent among wealthier investors.

The Line of Demarcation
    It looks pretty bleak for investment advisors, but that needn't be the case. We also asked the wealthy investors in our study to discuss their advisors, how and when they interact, and specific efforts they appreciate and value.

As we examined these behavioral patterns, two empirically derived segments of advisors emerged-those that are proactive toward their clients and those that are reactive. Proactive investment advisors reach out to their clients to help them understand the market environment and how it impacts their portfolios. They are more consultative, actively seeking ways to be of service and discussing issues in the context of each client's personal and financial agenda. In contrast, reactive advisors are lying low. They handle incoming requests and inquiries from their clients, but don't initiate contact and rarely discuss anything outside investments. The large majority of advisors, almost 80%, can be considered reactive based on how they work with their clients. (See Figure 5.)

The Benefits of Being Proactive

We then took another look at the future plans of our wealthy investors, separating their responses by the type of advisor they work with. What we found is that an advisor's approach to his or her clients has a considerable effect on the latter's plans to maintain, resize or terminate their relationships with those advisors. Even more promising is the fact that proactive behaviors have a demonstrable ability to help advisors retain business and relationships.

As illustrated in the following chart, the clients of proactive advisors were far less likely to change the nature of their advisory relationship than clients of reactive advisors. In every scenario we posed, proactive advisors fared far better than their less-responsive counterparts and are in a better position to strengthen current relationships and earn new business. (See Figure 6.)

Getting Your Share of the Current Crisis

The stark contrast in the client responses when separated by the approach of their advisors sheds light on your biggest opportunity-proactive behavior can help you expand the scope of your existing client relationships, secure referrals to qualified prospects and attract new, affluent clients. Proactive behavior is a vital and ongoing part of any service-oriented business, but it is even more important when market conditions and investment results are less than desirable.

In numerous studies, we've found that tumultuous markets and a weak economy are often optimal times to approach clients for additional assets and referrals and to cultivate new relationships with dissatisfied investors in search of new advisors. Additionally, our studies have helped us determine that periods of fiscal duress can also be a good time to expand the scope of your client relationships beyond investments by adding other products, such as life insurance and credit, and by offering other services, such as estate planning and tax preparation. An integrated platform of offerings allows you to demonstrate your interest in your clients' broad-based needs, reinforce your financial and planning expertise, deliver greater value to each relationship and generate more business revenue.

So, what next? The following chart includes five distinct growth initiatives (and key support activities) that are more accessible than ever because of the current state of the economy and the mood of investors. These suggestions should be considered only as a springboard, however, since there are other countless ways to reach your growth goals that should be explored, and you likely have your own reliable methods that you have perfected over the years.

Enhancing Your Efforts

Contrary to popular opinion, advisors can achieve noteworthy growth in tough markets or during a recession if the right steps are taken. The results discussed previously-$32 million in new fee-based assets, eight new clients and $1.85 million in revenue from new products or services-are attainable for a motivated advisor. In every scenario you must be proactive, but the greatest results will come from doing so within a clearly defined and targeted plan and relying on proven techniques and processes that support each initiative. For instance, a partnership with an accountant or a tax attorney can play a decisive role in helping you get all eight of those new affluent clients. What's more, the opportunities will multiply if the current circumstances persist.

It's true that a gyrating stock market, skyrocketing gas prices, higher unemployment rates, a tumbling DJIA, an eroding dollar and record numbers of foreclosures used to be sure signs of trouble. But today they have created an ideal environment for you to reach out to your clients and prospects as an expert and a leader, and someday soon you may unexpectedly find yourself hoping for a deep and extended recession.