Planners have recently faced persistent headwinds as they've tried to grow their practices.
Business may have slowed in part due to clients going on summer vacations, advisers say, with several noting they were taking time off as well.
In the wake of Brexit, the Retirement Adviser Confidence Index — Financial Planning's monthly barometer of business conditions — inched up 3.1 points to 52.3, back into positive territory but still below pre-Brexit levels.
Clients' willingness to take on risk did increase, according to the index. Yet advisers report clients are waiting for a more opportune moment to up allocations, citing current upheaval overseas and nervousness about the potential economic impact of the presidential election.
"As has been the case for several months, clients are very concerned by the upcoming presidential election and what is in store for tax rates, budget deficits, interest rates, etc.," a planner notes. Another planner says many clients have more money to invest but are holding back until after Nov. 8.
Several advisers also report that they themselves are guarded in the face of recent volatility and uncertainty.
Meanwhile, advisers are preparing to confront changes wrought by the new fiduciary rule, due to be phased in starting in April. Some advisers see the rule crimping their business opportunities.
The regulation "will likely severely limit the number of retirement accounts we manage," a wealth manager says.
One planner says she's hesitant to make changes to her practice. She's waiting for clarity on how the fiduciary rule will impact the retirement planning market.
The fiduciary rule is also popping up in conversations with clients, advisers report. "The increasing news about fiduciary statuses in the industry, as well as more education on sponsors' role as fiduciaries, has led to a higher or consistent interest in retirement plan reviews," a planner says.
Contributions to retirement plans increased 3.8 points to 59, according to the index.
Some advisers say changes in local economic conditions have temporarily boosted some business. "We've had a moderate increase in IRA business due to some layoffs at the local employer groups we service, but we don't see these layoffs as a trend moving forward," one adviser says.
The Retirement Advisor Confidence Index is composed of 10 factors — including asset allocations, investment product recommendations, economic and risk factors, taxes and planning fees — to track trends in wealth management. RACI readings below 50 indicate deteriorating business conditions, while readings over 50 indicate improvements.