Amid the usual midsummer trading slowdown, advisor confidence rebounded slightly in the latest month, while a boost in clients’ appetite for risk helped equity and bond sales to rise.
These factors caused August’s Retirement Advisor Confidence Index — Financial Planning’s monthly barometer of business conditions for wealth managers — to rise 0.9 points to 50.4 and back into positive territory, after registering a 12-month low in July.
Asked to focus on activity in July, advisors noted that their clients seemed calm and generally positive in regard to their retirement outlook. Perceived client risk tolerance rose 2.4 points after two consecutive months of decline.
One advisor wrote: “When the market is doing better, people tend to bring in more assets. July saw a slight uptick.” Another advisor described the month as “steady as she goes.” A few respondents noted that clients were a little gun-shy but responded positively to advisor feedback. “Doing much more hand-holding [as of] late,” one wrote. “Not a complaint really, as it demonstrates the power of listening.”
One professional attributed the rise in confidence to a strengthening U.S. economy: “I think with the national jobs reports continuing to reflect strength, investors are feeling more secure in their jobs, and therefore, they are investing more.”
Another respondent agreed, noting that while clients seemed worried about international activity, “here at home, outside of an uncertain domestic oil situation, we [sort of] like what we are seeing as of late.”
With clients feeling more confident, advisors reported a slight boost in allocations to bonds and equities.
After falling to a 12-month low last month and slipping slightly into negative territory, the assets allocated to equities went up by 2 points. Assets allocated to bonds rose 2.4 points.
Despite the uptick in confidence, some planners remain wary, citing the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed fiduciary rule. One advisor wrote: “The DoL proposal could be a game changer. We would essentially have to walk away from smaller plans as the cost of compliance under the new rules would be prohibitive.”
The Retirement Advisor Confidence Index is composed of 10 factors — including asset allocations, investment product recommendations, economic and risk factors, taxes and planning fees — to track trends in wealth management business cycles. Readings of less than 50 indicate deteriorating business conditions, while readings higher than 50 indicate improvements.