Clients are changing in unprecedented ways. What they need, what they value and what it takes to help them is all very different than it was just a handful of years ago.

Financial advisors are changing, too. They are deepening the ways they serve their clients, offering enhanced products and services, technology tools, and advice and guidance that can help turn clients' life plans into financial plans.

But delivering comprehensive wealth management is more than a set of capabilities. Our research shows that most people want their financial advisor to act as a “financial guide” who helps them achieve their goals, as opposed to an “investment advisor” who strictly makes recommendations about investments. To do that requires a human-centered approach where the comprehensive advice being delivered includes all financial and wealth management needs based on an intimate understanding of the client's life, values, needs and goals.

For the client experience to be exceptional, the branch experience also needs to be exceptional.

Some of the things we learned from the 2022 J.D. Power U.S. Financial Advisor Satisfaction Study that are hallmarks of an ideal branch experience are:
1. Professional Development And LeadershipThis includes an opportunity to learn both hard and soft skills from peers as well as veterans in the industry in a supportive culture. It also includes leadership opportunities for financial advisors beyond the branch to support their clients, colleagues and communities in living out their personal purpose.

2. CompensationShould be competitive, transparent and driven by the financial advisor’s success. How much financial advisors earn should be self-determined—by their business plan, their drive and how deeply they serve their clients.

3. Practice OptimizationIn its 2022 study, J.D. Power noted the strong correlation between financial advisor satisfaction and effective operational support. Firms that invest wisely in practice management often create advocates among their financial advisors. An optimized set of services, coordinated support of people and smart processes can help financial advisors grow their practices and serve clients more comprehensively.

4. Flexibility And ChoiceFinancial advisors want options that allow them to run their branch offices as they prefer. This includes multiple teaming options to meet the diverse needs of financial advisors and new roles such as a registered branch associate that can add capacity and lead to more time spent serving clients and investors.

By offering flexibility, choice and autonomy, firms can create long-term value for their financial advisors and their clients leading to an exceptional experience for all.

Ken Cella is principal of Branch Development at Edward Jones, a company that ranked no. 1 on J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Financial Advisor Satisfaction Study.