In the wake of the Great Recession, deep-pocketed investors are hedging their bets more than ever not only with the type of investments they're making but also with the advisors they're counting on to show them the money.
A new survey released this week by State Street Global Advisors and Knowledge@Wharton, an online resource created by the venerable business school, found that many ultra high net worth investors are using multiple advisors to manage their assets -- often unbeknownst to their advisors -- and that the advisors who have the skills, resources and tenacity to position themselves as a lead advisor stand to rake in the lion's share of fees and grow their businesses at a rapid clip.
The report, titled "Taking On The Role Of The Lead Advisor: A Model For Driving Assets, Growth and Retention," was derived from surveys completed by 2,196 financial advisors, 776 investors and insights from Wharton faculty, State Street Global Advisors and wealth managers to the ultra high net worth crowd.
Of the investors surveyed, 49% said they manage their own investment portfolios while 34% work with only one advisor, meaning a rather healthy chunk (17%) of these ultra high net worth investors are using two or more advisors to manage all their various investments.
Of the 49% who are going it alone, half said they didn't believe advisors provided enough value to justify their fees and for those who are using two or more advisors, diversification of risk was cited as the top reason for splitting their assets with multiple money pros.
Providing a wide array of investment products and research tools, a documented history of superior investment performance and, perhaps most important of all, a commitment to regular, meaningful communication with clients in a timely manner are the key differentiators that make it possible to assume the lead advisor role with this more demanding clientele.
"The role of lead advisor creates a critical competitive advantage at a time when investors are searching for customized financial solutions they can trust," Anthony Rochte, senior managing director at State Street Global Advisors, said in the report. "The early movers toward the lead advisor model are positioned to offer a superior level of service that could ultimately lead to a more profitable, rewarding practice."
But becoming the lead advisor first requires a little tactful investigation to ascertain whether or not a client is using other advisors and exactly what products and services that advisor or multiple advisors are already providing.
The survey found that of the investors using two or more advisors, 65% consider one advisor to be their primary advisor. However, 55% of this group acknowledges that their primary advisor doesn't know that he or she is working with another advisor.
"As a result of this disconnect," the report said. "investors could be taking on too much -- or too little -- risk."
The concern, both for the investor and the advisor or advisors, is that recommendations by one could inadvertently be hedged by another, causing a risk profile of the client's overall portfolio to be more conservative than the investor's financial goals warrant or too concentrated in one single stock or asset class.
"Even if an investor is initially well-diversified across multiple advisors, the performance of the investor’s portfolio over time could result in style drift or being overweight in a particular sector or industry," the report said. "If no one keeps watch over the broader portfolio, including the assets invested with other advisors, the need to rebalance could go unmet."
And this fact alone should give the most aggressive financial advisors a great opportunity to make the case for taking either a sole or lead advisor role and garner the financial benefits that come with taking primary responsibility for these well-heeled clients' investment portfolios.
"As the lead advisor, you may be able to earn higher fees on the total assets under management as opposed to the fees on a portion of assets allocated to multiple advisors," the report said "More importantly, you gain the ability to earn fees commensurate with the value of the holistic service you’re providing."