The equity markets have been strong this year and so has the planning business, but advisor confidence is slipping.
The Retirement Advisor Confidence Index — Financial Planning’s monthly barometer of business conditions for wealth managers — slipped for a second month in a row in July to 53.6, as advisors tried to make sense of conflicting economic signals.
One trouble spot: Although rising equities have boosted planners’ own businesses by increasing asset fees, the booming market is starting to look like a cause for concern. “Many folks have seen the big run-up in the U.S. stock markets and the record-breaking performance,” explains one respondent. “In 2013, this resulted in more exuberance among clients. This year, they are more worried about a correction.”
The split between real risk tolerance and clients’ risk appetites also seems to be a challenge. “Clients are less risk averse as markets rise (foolishly?),” one advisor says. Adds another: “Clients react to news, but our firm’s assessment of risk is what drives reallocation.”
The survey, which asked respondents to focus on June activity, also reflects higher scores in in two retirement-related components. “As employers are increasing their hiring, enrollment in the employer-sponsored ... plans has increased,” says one advisor. Another cites firm strategy: “After tax season, we target clients that have a retirement account need that was noticed in April but not implemented.”
The index is composed of 10 factors — including asset allocations, investment product recommendations, taxes and planning fees — to track trends in wealth management business cycles. RACI readings of less than 50 indicate declines, while readings of more than 50 indicate expansion.