Despite the fact investors are more conservative after getting slammed by the recession, advisors and their clients are optimistic about the year ahead, with advisors looking to grow their business and improve their use of technology.

On Thursday, the SEI Advisor Network released a poll revealing that over half of investors have moved back into the markets, although risk and avoidance are now the overarching priorities. Forty-five percent of advisors polled said clients are “not as risk tolerant as originally thought,” while 29% said clients learned they “can handle market volatility if they focus on long-term goals.”

The majority of advisors said they communicated with clients more frequently last year.

The poll surveyed 442 advisors this month and last month.

“This poll shows the true impact of the financial crisis that started in 2008 – advisors are looking for new ways to make their business more secure and more successful,” said Stephen Onofrio, Head of Sales and Service, SEI Advisor Network, in a press release. “Advisors that identify and implement best-practices in processes, procedures and technology will win the race for investor confidence and grow assets.”

Fifty nine percent of advisors said the most challenging part of 2009 was the “continued pay cut due to market depreciation,” while 29% said scaling back expansion plans was the hardest part, according to SEI. Seventy three percent of advisors say that managing business risk now takes more time and 67% say regulatory compliance has become a key priority.

For this year, most advisors hope to become more client-focused, grow their book of business, and improve technology. Seventy percent of advisors predict a 0% to 10% gain in performance for a diversified 60% equity and 40% bond portfolio.

“The market has become more fluid and transactional, with a more restrictive compliance environment, making the use of technology and systems a critical component to delivering and implementing the final product with a streamlined process,” said Mitch Walk, President of Asset Management Partners of Longwood, Florida, in a press release.

As of Sept. 30, SEI, through its subsidiaries and partnerships, administered $383 billion in mutual fund and pooled assets and managed $156 billion in assets.