Financial advisors lack access to their clients' total account data-a deficiency that could impact their ability to provide comprehensive advice, according to Fiserv Inc.'s annual survey of financial advisors released earlier this month.

Ninety-five percent of financial advisors said their clients are asking them for advice on "held-away" assets, which are defined as accounts not actively managed by an advisor or custodian affiliated with the advisor's financial institution, according to the survey. Held-away assets include self-directed investment and retirement accounts such as 401(k)s.

Seventy-eight percent of advisors polled said they do not have access to an aggregated view of their clients' overall financial picture. Despite this, 73 percent said they are advising clients on their held-away assets. Of that group, just 20 percent charge for the advice. Many of the advisors surveyed also said they rely on time-intensive, manual methods for getting information on these held-away assets. Of those financial advisors who do not provide advice on held away assets, 46 percent said they believe it takes too much time to gather the information.

Eighty-two percent of survey respondents said they were interested in evaluating providing advice on held-away assets as a value-added service for new and existing clients.

"With the fee-based advice model becoming the new industry standard, there is a significant opportunity for financial advisors to leverage account aggregation as a method of providing holistic, strategic advice to investors," said Rhonda Bassett-Spiers, chief operating officer of FiServ's CashEdge Division. "The survey results demonstrate that data aggregation is no longer just 'nice to have.' It has become a necessity."

The survey is based on responses from 603 financial advisors who each have more than 10 years of experience.

Brookfield, Wis.-based Fiserv is a technology provider whose offerings include account data aggregation.

-Jim McConville