RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • We surveyed 200 North American financial advisors to better understand the role they play in clients’ lives.
  • Three smart moves came through clearly; advice should be holistic, available on demand and integrated.
  • Clients are also increasingly wanting Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) to play a guiding role in their investments.


Accenture recently conducted field research to better understand what role financial advisors are playing in their clients' lives.

We posed questions around the advice clients ask for and need, how they create and deliver solutions, how technology can best be integrated into client service and how firms themselves are making the advice lifecycle more efficient and rewarding for their people.

When we analyzed the findings, three key themes emerged that are reshaping the industry:

1. Holistic

Advisors are playing a diverse set of roles to meet client needs—including portfolio manager, life coach, relationship manager and therapist.

2. On-demand

Advice-on-demand is shaping the industry, as the service level expectations of HNW and UHNW clients blur with the convenience services used every day.

3. Integrated

COVID-19 created a greater reliance on virtual channels. Advice should be consistent and impactful whether in person, on the phone or by video chat.

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Financial advice reimagined.

Take a look at how these 3 key themes play out through the eyes of a financial advisor persona based on our field research.

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#1 Advice needs to be holistic.

It’s not enough anymore just to be a good portfolio manager. Clients are using their financial advisors as everything from a life coach and family planning expert, to a financial services concierge and relationship manager. This diverse set of roles requires a holistic menu of products and services to aptly meet clients’ needs.

Managing wealth has become more personal and complex as the world and our choices have become more complicated. Retiring, starting a new job, budgeting and education were the most common life events clients need help navigating.

Our study also showed that advisors believe clients crave services to help them navigate life both proactively and reactively. One of the most frequent topics clients ask their advisors about is how to conduct family meetings where these conversations are often facilitated by their financial advisor.

81%

of advisors report they hold meetings to help clients navigate complicated family dynamics

87%

of advisors say they use complex models to allocate capital among a wide range of asset classes

29%

of clients need the most help from their advisor to navigate retirement

16%

of clients are seeking advice about changing or leaving their jobs

#2 Advice needs to be available on demand.

Advice-on-demand is shaping the industry, as the service level expectations of clients blur with the convenience services they use every day, like DoorDash or Lyft.

Our research shows that clients are seeking advice for a variety of life events, most of which happen in between the standard quarterly touchpoints with their wealth advisor.

Despite this, results show that advice still appears to be "scheduled" rather than occurring on demand as only 8% of financial advisors report meeting with their clients on an ad-hoc basis.

And while firms have invested in capabilities that promote on-demand advice, advisors need technology improvements that are required to increase speed and digital engagement to react real-time.

Percentage of financial advisors that believe their firm can improve services or activities to create a better client experience:

25%

Communications with clients

15%

E-signature

15%

Digital content

11%

Document upload for clients

10%

Appointment reminders

10%

Onboarding

9%

Digital agent

7%

Money transfer

1%

Other

#3 Advice should be integrated.

COVID-19 has changed the way advice is given. The pandemic hit during the course of our research, so the 45% of financial advisors that initially said they meet with clients in person most often are now likely using virtual communication methods.

No situation is static, so financial advisors that can increase their comfort with digital means of communication should reap benefits beyond COVID-19. Clients will become used to in-person and virtual communication—likely wanting the best of both worlds.

While many of us hope that life does return to some semblance of normalcy, this months-long experience has shown us that the industry can adapt. Virtual conferencing has been instrumental in many ways as a channel to connect with clients and prospects as well as nurture client relationships.

Three out of four advisors say clients ask about Environmental, Social and Governance criteria when investing.

Doing good while doing well matters more than ever

Sustainable, ethical investing is currently outperforming traditional funds. Socially conscious investing is here to stay, driven increasingly by a younger generation that wants the positive impacts on their wallet to also have a positive impact on the world. Three out of four advisors say clients ask about Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria when investing.

For more insights, download our report. And as client expectations continue to shift, look for additional research from us in this space.

About the survey

Accenture conducted field research in the spring of 2020 to examine the client service dynamic and better understand the changing advice paradigm from the perspective of a financial advisor. We interviewed 200 licensed financial advisors at leading wealth management firms—including 20 fintechs / startups—across the United States and Canada.

Rather than ask about technicalities, we wanted to hear more about the nature of advice, e.g. creating and delivering solutions, integrating technology further into client service, and delivering advice lifecycle efficiencies, among other topics.

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