I was in popular demand several weeks ago. No less than five invitations to industry learning and networking events had popped into my mailbox.
Unfortunately, all of the gatherings were scheduled on the same day in late June. I chose one hoping it would sufficiently bolster my financial planning knowledge and work as an industry-networking event.
The old saying ‘sell in May and go away’ does not apply to daily investing life anymore, and many advisors know the reasons why. Ratcheting down investing and client activity might have been more understandable when the U.S. and developed markets drove much of the world’s economy.
By now, some of you advisors have seen findings from the 2011 Benchmarking Study from Charles Schwab Advisor Services. The results were publicized early Tuesday, just one morning after families had swept patios clean of cookout debris, and everyone’s ears had recovered from shrieking and booming firework displays.
Using a sampling of 820 firms managing more than $300 billion in client assets, the study aims to hold a large, panoramic mirror up to the industry. Were advisors focused on growth in 2010? What forms of operational disciplines did firms put into place? What are hindrances to growth, and what are the top growth enablers? On that last point, Schwab found that 80% of firms reported that maintaining quality client service with growth enabled their firms to grow.
Further, the asset custodian found that close attention and frequent communication with clients paid off for firms. It shored up loyalty, and on average, registered investment advisors slowed client attrition by 25%. The firms in the study held onto 97% of their clients during 2010.
Schwab also found that client growth increased, by 4.4% in 2010. True enough, that rate falls below the 8% median annual growth rate that firms reported from 2003 to 2006. Four percent growth is better than 3%, however, which is what the industry saw in 2009. Still, it is a signal that the industry has some room for growth and is working steadily toward a full recovery.
There is another, broader reason not to assume that investors are kicking back in their hammocks during the sweltering months. According to a Templeton Investments’ recent assessment of opportunities in emerging markets, which drew from data in the Morningstar and the Morgan Stanley Capital International World Index, the U.S. placed 17th in a ranking of the best-performing markets among developed countries in 2009. That was far behind Norway, which came in first. In 2008 in placed third, behind Japan and Switzerland, first and second, respectively. When ranked among the best-performing markets among all countries, the U.S. was 38th in 2009, outdone by first-place Brazil. That compared with its seventh-place ranking in 2008, several notches behind first-place Morocco.
The industry has been hearing for a long time now that the U.S. and other developed countries have to share the stage with emerging markets. But even the European sovereign debt crisis, which seems a long ways off from stabilizing, is keeping some investors and advisors busy through the summer months. Investment preferences so varied, and markets are so active, therefore, that slowing down client contact during the summer months is not an option.
Client contact should not be hard to maintain in the current business climate. Email newsletters and social media Web sites are accessible and accepted business tools that are very easy to use. And think about why your clients work, save and invest. They want to take vacations and to retire-- or partially retire, depending on their situation -- comfortably. Just don’t let them get too comfortable as they lay plans for the years ahead.