HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Advisors think they're personally successful -- but they think their industry stinks.

Those were two key findings of Pershing's second annual study of advisory success, unveiled here last week during the company's Insite conference.

Across the board, 38% of advisors surveyed said their business was "doing better than ever before" -- up from 31% in the previous year's study. RIAs had the highest level of self-defined success, with 41% picking that top level, and the fewest of any channel saying they were merely "maintaining the status quo."

The Pershing study identified three factors that correlated highly with a "doing better than ever" answer:

  • They were more likely to say they were "team-oriented." 
  • They were more likely to say they were extroverts. 
  • They were more likely to have a team website. 


Yet those advisors weren't so quick to recommend the profession. Only 37% of all advisors would recommend the career to their children or to another young person, they said; even among the "doing better" cohort, less than half would recommend the profession.

Perhaps part of the disparity stems from a false sense of personal achievement -- nearly half of advisors graded their own performance at eight, nine or 10 (on a 10-point scale), compared with peers.

Kim Guimond Dellarocca, Pershing's global head of segment marketing and practice management, points to the way advisors define their own success for a clue. "Advisors aren't defining success by money," she says. Helping clients meet goals, having appreciative clients and helping clients make the right decisions were all the most rewarding parts of the career, the study found.

"The quality of human interaction, the quality of the difference you can make in someone's life … [that] trumped everything."

At the same time, she says, the unfavorable opinions about the field are something that should concern every advisor.

"This profession pays extremely well; there's a lot of autonomy, there's an opportunity to make a difference in people's lives," she says. "And there are jobs; it needs talent. So you have to ask yourself: Why do only 37% of us feel our kids should do this?"

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