The survey asked advisor respondents to rank what they thought would be the three biggest drivers of their firm’s future growth. More than three-quarters of advisors (77%) said client referrals, followed by centers of influence (50%) and educational events (31%). The FPA and SEI said they were surprised that advisors didn’t suggest they would grow their businesses by expanding services with existing clients.

Investors cited a wide range of technology tools they would use if offered by their planner, with augmented or virtual reality (17%), virtual assistants/chat bots (15%) and video conferencing (13%) coming in as the top three. Least cited was an online portal to manage accounts (4%).

Zohlen, who focuses on widows and divorced female clients, noted she recently started video conferencing with clients. Many clients, even ones who live relatively close to her office, have chosen to meet with her virtually because it saves them a drive in heavy traffic.

The widest variety of responses though came from advisors when asked what services they think clients will need. Nearly one quarter of respondents chose every category offered.  Nearly half of planners cited health insurance planning (48%), followed by digital asset management (37%), financial cybersecurity training (36%), discretionary trust administration and management (33%), a robo-like investment platform (31%), socially responsible/ESG investing (26%) and mental health capacity assessment for dementia (24%).

According to the study, financial planners need to:

• Plan for more than 12 months. They need to think about how to invigorate and truly differentiate their business and consider whether their value proposition will survive the next 10 years.

Segment clients and anticipate future needs for each group. Identify at least one niche market in which you’ve been effective and think about how to attract more of those clients.

• Schedule two full days to frame a 10-year strategic plan. Look at how you can shift from a generalist to a specialist and provide more personalization. Think about how to attract younger clients.

• Listen more to your clients.  Develop an advisory board focused on clients and include at least one millennial member.

• Audit and assess your technology needs. If you want to become more efficient, consider what your technology gaps are and what you need to achieve scale. Try new technology and ask clients what kinds of tools they’d like to access.