MIAMI - Since the recession, institutions have had difficulties garnering trust, with 75% of those surveyed in a recent Capco/Tower study saying their trust in large institutions decreased after 2008.

Making matters worse, 25% of financial advisors and wealth managers are leaving their firms and going independent, taking trusted client relationships with them, said Alvi Abuaf of FIS in a breakfast session at the ABA Wealth Management Conference Tuesday.

Here are some statistics: 77% of individuals tell people they know about those they trust; 72% tell people they know about those they don’t trust. The lesson here is that advisors need to do everything they can to develop a trusted relationship with their clients. Developing trust with clients will pay off: those surveyed also said their trust in their own investment capabilities has declined since the financial meltdown, a sign that for those trusted advisors, clients may be demanding more advice.

So, how are advisors and financial institutions building trust?

Abuaf asked financial advisors at large institutions, “What are the top three initiatives they are implementing to rebuild trust in 2011?” Their answers: brand-building, client-segmentation, and advice tools.

Abuaf was surprised at the responses. “You’d think they’d say they want to align broker and advisor objectives with their clients’objectives, educate and inform, and communicate and connect,” he said.

Another area that most firms don’t think about is how to rebuild trust with their own advisors. “Many advisors are leaving not only because they want to go independent, but because they’ve lost trust in their institution. They no longer believe in their companies,” Abuaf explained.

Abuaf gave some practical ideas to rebuild trust: provide comprehensive advice, including all the financial services a client needs; flexibility; transparency of fees; meaningful performance metrics’ and risk transparency.

Surprisingly, Abuaf asked the audience to raise their hands if 50% or more of their clients have a financial plan. Almost no one in the room raised their hand. This is consistent with a Capco/Tower survey, which found that about 80% of financial advisors say less than 50% of their clients have a financial plan. Why? “It’s the advisor themselves,” he said. “A financial plan is the best way to increase communication with clients, but it’s also time consuming.”

To be sure, if firms and advisors don’t build trust with their clients they will lose them. Yet, institutions are missing the opportunity to meet their clients where they are at. While 80% of advisors believe tablet computing (ie. Android, iPad, and Playbook) is “somewhat important” to their clients in 2011, very few use it. “In three years you’ll see most desktop capabilities available on tablets. It will have a major impact on our industry,” he said. Yet firms aren’t stepping up to the plate.

Many aren’t using social media either. When Abuaf asked 18 large organizations how active they are using social media, 33% said they are not active. “The people using social media are our client base,” he said. “The fastest growth in social media is in the 50+ segment. We should be using social media for customer interaction, education, and building community among customers.”

If firms don’t jump on the social media bandwagon, that doesn’t mean others won’t. Already Abuaf has seen the growth of peer-to-peer sites that allows people to connect and loan money to each other or ask for financial advice. “People are connecting and bypassing organizations,” he said. “I’m not trying to scare you, but if these sites continue to grow they could really impact our industry.”



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