Online financial management tools might have caught the attention of younger investors, but a recent survey by Capstrat-Public Policy Polling suggests the Internet is a long way off from gaining everyone else’s trust.
Released last week, the Capstrat study found that Americans still go to traditional financial professionals like financial advisors, accountants and banks representatives when seeking money management guidance. The study, which polled 420 Americans by phone on June 23 and June 24, found that 62% of respondents thought certified public accountants were the most reliable. Bank representatives followed, 52% and financial advisors just managed to win over a majority of Americans, with 51%. Respondents were allowed more than one answer.
Only 4% of respondents said online forums was their “most influential” source of financial advice. For the most part the results sound appropriate, especially the last part about lukewarm trust in online forums, says Mark Matson, founder and chief executive officer of Matson Money, a network of financial advisors and investment coaches that manages $2.5 billion in client assets.
“Financial advisors have been making some headway with consumers,” Matson said. “Other research shows that entrepreneurs are among the most trusted people in the economy, and independent advisors are entrepreneurs.”
Matson Money bases its operations on a disciplined investment approach, while using social media tools like social networking sites and video blogs to communicate with advisors. Matson also encourages advisors to use these tools to stay in close contact with their clients. Capstrat, based in Raleigh, N.C., did not ask the respondents what they thought about other Internet resources, like blogs, webinars or research tools on company-specific sites. Instead, the company focused on tools that consumers were likely to use, said Ken Eudy, chief executive officer of Capstrat.
Among respondents who used online tools, Capstrat found that 48% of Millennials (Americans between 18 and 19 years old) consider Google searches to be their most influential financial advisor. Also, 43% of that group said they use online forums. At the same time, 50% of respondents in this group gave financial advisors the highest scores for reliability.
“It was astonishing to me,” Eudy said. “This young cohort still likes financial advisors, and go to the bank. They also like to use Google searches to see what else is out there.”
Nevertheless, Matson is dubious about online forums as a reliable source of financial information for anyone. “You might as well walk up to someone on the street and ask them what they think,” he said. “I would really stay away from the forums.”
Matson was not surprised CPAs came out ahead of other professionals in the study. Americans see them as well-educated advisors who offer unbiased feedback without having to sell products. The fact that banks placed ahead of financial advisors is also a sad comment on the trust that Americans have in financial professionals, he said. Also, the deceitful advisory practices of former financiers Bernard L. Madoff and Allen Stanford are still fresh business stories. Madoff and Stanford inflicted damage on advisors’ reputations, which might taken away from their standings of financial advisors in the Capstrat poll, Matson said.
Male respondents (28%) considered financial advisors to be the “most influential” source of advice, compared with just 19% of women. Also, 22% of women considered banks to be the most influential source of advice (2%), compared with just 12% of men. Also, 59% of women respondents are more likely to turn to banks for advice, compared with 43% of men.