BOSTON – Advisors spent inordinate amounts of time studying financial topics, trends and products so they can make suitable recommendations to their clients for the long term. But are they sufficiently aware of the “future factors” that could have an even bigger effect on their clients’ lives?

Trend researcher Kim Lear of Inlay Insights tried to get advisors at the annual Schwab Impact conference to consider topics beyond expense ratios, AUM fees and asset allocation in illustrating broad societal changes that are slowly changing the way people work, live and spend money.

Lear highlighted the disaggregation of the global economy in favor a local economy in which companies like Airbnb and collective organizations such as farmers’ markets will continue to gain power in an “experience economy.”


Within that experience economy, advisors facing competition from digital wealth management offerings will find a new opportunity to distinguish what they do. “The financial services industry is being forced to innovate due to huge disruption in their space. What used to be a highly relational business is now becoming commoditized,” Lear notes on her blog.

“Robo advisors provide a service,” she added in her presentation at Impact, while “financial advisors provide an experience” – provided they are properly focused on issues that are important to individual clients.

Those issues will, of course, evolve over time. Some will be nuanced, requiring subtle modifications more than wholesale revisions. "Position a plan of life phases rather than life stages," Lear says.


She also highlighted the idea that advisors should also be aware of the profound shift in gender roles. While advisors for years have been told to be aware of relatively new ambitions and goals for female clients, Lear said men are increasingly emphasizing new needs, as well.

She told of a man who spurned a lucrative job offer because of a heavy travel load that would have kept him away from his family. “The social construction of masculinity is being re-examined as more men break the mold of socially accepted ‘manliness,’ ” Lear says. No longer, she adds, is “family first” only a female-centric mindset.

While advisors spend much of their time deeply examining the needs of their clients, many would do well to look in the mirror. “What is the experience of working with me? What is the experience of working for me?” she asked.

The answers could be of enormous benefit, Lear said, as advisors work to shape and reshape their practices.

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