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The Most Successful Advisors Adapt to Client Communication Preferences, Pershing Study Says

New Channels of Communication Have Raised the Bar for Effective Advisor-Client Engagement

While most advisors are enjoying greater success than they did a few years ago, many are challenged with how to best communicate with their clients, according to new research released today from Pershing LLC (Pershing), a BNY Mellon company. The Second Annual Study of Advisory Success: A New Age of Client Communications and Client Expectations explores the value of key client touchpoints and identifies opportunities for financial advisors to strengthen their connections and be more effective.

Study of Advisory Success is a longitudinal study that defines what success means for advisors in today's environment and highlights the most salient issues that advisors face. Based on this year's research, advisors who adapt to client communications preferences and expectations are more successful than those who do not.

"Lessons learned from the financial crisis, combined with the popularity of smartphones and other devices, have raised client expectations," says Kim Dellarocca, managing director at Pershing. "With the proliferation of different touchpoints and a greater apprehension of financial risk, clients expect more frequent, tailored communications in real time, and many advisors have not yet developed a consistent communications strategy. It is essential for advisors to understand how, where and when current and potential clients prefer to communicate."

Twenty years ago, advisors connected with clients through three primary channels: phone, mail and in-person meetings. Today, these channels have grown to include email and social media, which are ingrained in their clients' lives, raising the bar for effective communications between advisors and their clients.

The study identifies three key areas in which advisors should focus their communication efforts and actionable steps they can take to improve in these areas:

  • Personal brand: Advisors who focus on their personal brands seem to enjoy greater success. More than half (53 percent) of advisors strongly agree that their personal brand is more important than their firm's brand, but they are not always communicating their value proposition to clients. According to the study, one out of three advisors is missing a mission statement on their personal website, and a quarter of advisors do not have a mission statement on their team websites.

Advisors should see themselves the way their clients do, particularly online. Brands are most impactful in helping to attract and engage the right customers, and advisors should take the time to see themselves the way their clients and prospects do by taking the time to discover their own online presence through searches and then refining that presence to be more effective.

  • Social media: The study shows that advisors have mixed feelings about social media. Advisors can use it to engage many current and potential clients, and to share content quickly and easily. Two in five advisors do not use social media for business purposes, but among those who have used it for business, 73 percent reported positive experiences and an impact on their business. More than half (52 percent) of advisors feel that they have not invested enough time in social media, including 11 percent who say they do not spend enough time listening to their clients on those platforms. An advisor's lack of presence on the web and social networks might deter younger prospects from becoming potential clients.

Advisors should capitalize on social media and become savvy content curators. While many advisors cite a lack of time as the reason for not using social media, there are a number of platforms that can serve as an efficient vehicle for listening, distribution and engagement. Advisors should have the ability to discern which information has value and is worth sharing. It is important that advisors do not overextend themselves. They need to make sure they are able to reasonably maintain any social properties they create. Advisors should value quality over quantity in this case.

  • Milestones: Relationships require regular contact and attention. Major lifecycle events such as retirement or divorce call for heightened personal attention, yet 20 percent of advisors do not reach out to clients in such circumstances, jeopardizing the client relationship.

Advisors should reach out about the good news, too. Clients are interested in hearing from their advisors regarding positive milestones, such as a birthday, new job or the birth of a child. Communicating with clients under a range of circumstances will make outreach in turbulent times less reactionary and forced.

"With client communication channels and protocols continuing to evolve, what advisors say and how quickly they respond counts more than ever," says Dellarocca. "If they are not sure how their clients prefer to communicate, they should just ask."