Financial advisers will remember 2011 as "The Year of Volatility" or "The Year of Uncertainty," according to a survey of 200 financial advisers polled by the SEI Advisor Network.

The majority of advisers said they communicated with clients more frequently and felt more pressure to keep clients satisfied in 2011 than in 2010, with clients' need for more "personal communication" trumping the need for more "reporting" and "education." Investors "aren't just looking for more investment reports or lengthy documents explaining the current status of the financial markets," said Patrick Tucker, principal at Meridian Management, Inc., in Omaha, Neb. "First and foremost, they want personal communication-direct contact through calls, e-mails, and meetings-with their financial adviser about issues that matter like the status of their goals, personal situation and plans for the future."

Advisers said that the market volatility made many of their clients realize they weren't as risk tolerant as they thought. More than half said that their clients' mindset could best be described as "apprehensive."

Four in 10 advisers said that the issue of global instability dominated client conversations the most, more so than the possibility of another market correction, implications of the federal deficit or retirement issues. Europe, not the U.S. or China, was the area of greatest concern for the majority of advisers. Despite the uncertain market, four in 10 advisors said their firm grew by more than 10% in 2011 in net new assets; 12% by more than 20%.

Retirement Assets Decline 7.5% to $17 Trillion in 3Q

Total retirement assets were $17.0 trillion as of Sept. 30, down 7.5% from a record high of $18.4 trillion as of June 30, the Investment Company Institute said, attributing most of the decline to the 13.9% decline in the S&P 500 Index in the third quarter. Assets might have declined even further were it not for automatic contributions to 401(k)s, the ICI said.

Retirement assets now comprise 36% of all U.S. household financial assets, the ICI said.

IRAs held $4.6 trillion at the end of the third quarter, an 8.5% decline from the end of the second quarter. Employer-sponsored retirement plan assets fell 7.5% to $4.3 trillion. Of this category, 401(k) plans held $2.9 trillion at the end of the third quarter, down 9.3% from $3.2 trillion at the end of June. Government pensions held $4.2 trillion, a 7.7% decline from the end of June. Private defined benefit plans held $2.3 trillion, and annuity reserves outside of retirement accounts totaled another $1.6 trillion.

The ICI also said that by the end of the third quarter, target-date funds held $343 billion in assets, a 10.2% decline from the second quarter. Ninety-one percent of those target-date fund assets are held in DC plans and IRAs.

Jury Finds Ex-Pru Rep Guilty of Market Timing

A jury for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of a SEC lawsuit against a former Prudential Securities registered rep for market timing mutual funds between 2001 and 2003. The SEC said that the rep, Frederick J. O'Meally, evaded mutual fund blocks on his market timing.

The SEC filed its complaint on Aug. 28, 2006. The court will reconvene this month to determine sanctions against O'Meally.

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