Rosy Outlook for Advisory Firms

The economy is in rough shape, the American Dream has undergone major revisions and clients' investing goals may be out of reach, but independent financial advisors say their own firms are doing just fine.

One possible reason: Uncertain times deliver more potential clients and help advisors retain existing ones. Amid the turmoil of the past five years, Schwab data shows that advisors have retained 97% of assets, says Bernie Clark, Schwab's head of Advisor Services.

"The markets have inherently become more complex," Clark notes. He cites U.S. regulatory uncertainty, continued fears over the fate of the euro and growing jitters over China's economy. "I don't know how individual investors do this without help," he says. - Rachel F. Elson


Changes Coming for CE Credit

Big changes to the continuing education requirements for planners are expected this month following a meeting of the leadership of the CFP Board.

In addition to expanding the 30 credits required every two years to as many as 40, planners may also have a chance to earn credits in practice management, pro bono efforts and ethics.

"The board has looked at what other professional organizations have been doing," says Alan Goldfarb, chairman of the CFP Board and director of wealth management at Weaver Wealth Management in Dallas. "The fact that we have 30 hours every two years seems inconsistent with growing this as a true profession. - Scott Wenger


Account-Opening Difficulties

Inefficient account-opening processes are leading to client defections and advisor dissatisfaction with broker-dealers, researchers found.

"Account opening is not just a back-office problem -it's also a front-office problem," says Sophie Schmitt, a senior analyst at Aite Group who wrote the report.

"It's about setting expectations and showing that their practice has professional processes, and the advisor demonstrating that they can deliver," Schmitt says. -Samantha Allen


Retirement Sweet Spot

Most households with $100,000 to $500,000 in investable assets do not have a retirement income plan and have not worked with an advisor, presenting a sweet spot for client development, a new study found.

"This represents a great opportunity for asset managers, broker-dealers and retirement plan providers to increase retirement income planning education - guidance many investors will welcome," says Alessandra Hobler, an analyst at Cerulli, which released the study. "This lack of planning can result in rollover opportunities after retirement." -Samantha Allen


Don't Ask, Don't Grow

A leading wealth manager says most advisors don't spend enough time on two critical tasks to help them grow their business: rainmaking and client interaction.

Ron Carson of Carson Wealth Management told more than 300 planners in October at the Peak Advisor Alliance conference in Omaha, Neb., that the average advisor spends only 13% of his or her time rainmaking with clients. A small boost can help advisors grow their revenue substantially, he said.

Adding more clients is a matter of asking for referrals, he said. Only 11% of advisors ask for referrals, even though 50% of clients come as a result of referrals. - Matt Ackerman