Bloomberg Media Group releases Wave 2 of Financial Advisor Study

Jen Robinson

The advisors who help millions of Americans plan for the future are confronting rapid change. Market uncertainty, a new tax law and the digital revolution are among the host of pressures they face.

The second wave of Bloomberg Media Group’s Financial Advisor Study deeply examines how that reality affects advisors – in both their day-to-day practice and overall mindset.

Released at events in New York and Boston recently, the study is an ongoing effort in exclusive partnership with Greenwich Associates (the first wave was introduced last October). The latest iteration delivers fresh data to provide additional dimension on what drives this hard-to-reach group.

Dan Connell, Managing Director of Greenwich Associates, left, and Michelle Lynn, Global Head of Data Science and Insights for Bloomberg Media Group, right, present Wave 2 of the Bloomberg Financial Advisor Study in New York. Photo: Jen Robinson/Bloomberg

Honing in on which advisors are most valuable to them is increasingly important to financial services marketers, said Michelle Lynn, Global Head of Data Science and Insights for Bloomberg Media Group. Lynn presented highlights from the new data along with Dan Connell, Managing Director of Greenwich Associates in both New York and Boston. Industry experts also joined Lynn and Connell in each city for insightful conversations: In New York, J.P. Morgan Asset Management Managing Director, Head of Global Brand Experience Jaime Kalfus joined the panel; and in Boston, Fundamental Media President, North America Andrew Chesney did the same.

How can marketers shape the most effective communication strategies in this new world?  To begin with, not all advisors are alike, Lynn and Connell pointed out. That’s true across business types as well as more psychological factors. As Connell explained, “We saw some really interesting differences between those who personally manage more than $250 million and those who manage under $250 million,” including differences in which investments are gaining popularity with clients, how likely they are to be first to try new products and technologies, and how they spend their time.

For example, Lynn said, “almost 80 percent said they’re spending more time discussing the tax law changes with their clients,” and they’re also spending more time discussing market movements and politics – in line with what you’d expect given the study’s timing. Those managing over $250 million, meanwhile, also spent more time continuing their financial education, and more time hiring people. “It feels like the combination of things they’re doing is putting them in a better position” to thrive, Lynn said.

But the study goes beyond looking at advisors through traditional metrics such as how much money they manage, what licenses they hold or the type of firm they work for. The study’s proprietary mindset segmentation offers a unique view of how advisors fall into groups around such topics as what they see as most important to their business, what they like about being an advisor, what environments they’re most receptive in, and more.

The panel discussion in New York included (l-r): Mike Dukmejian, Financial Services Practice Lead, Bloomberg Media Group; Jaime Kalfus, Managing Director, Head of Global Brand Experience, J.P. Morgan Asset Management; Dan Connell, Managing Director, Greenwich Associates; Michelle Lynn, Global Head of Data Science and Insights, Bloomberg Media Group. Photo: Mitch Goldstein/Bloomberg

Customizing messages to what advisors need and want helps financial services brands build trust, said J.P. Morgan’s Jaime Kalfus. “When you’re providing what FAs are looking for, that’s where the value exchange happens,” she said. “The way you have to build trust is by showing them that you actually want to help them – you want to help them grow their business, you want to help them have better conversations with their clients, you want to help them empower better investment decisions that drive better outcomes. When you prove that that is what you want to do, then your brand will be trusted.”

Much of the content provided by asset managers seems to be meeting that bar: among those who said they turned to asset managers as a primary resource for information, most said it was actionable, said Connell. “They’re taking notes, so they’re absorbing the information; they’re passing it on to clients, and to colleagues,” he added.

But there are infinite ways to think about connection, Lynn pointed out – especially given current projections about the future state of an already-small universe of advisors (Greenwich Associates estimates the number of FAs will shrink by some 200,000 over the next several years). “When we think about a finite universe, and a shrinking number of FAs, and how we have so many people who are marketing to this small group of people – there are other ways that you can connect with them,” she said. Areas that are personal to them, for example, can help marketers offer relevant content in the right place.

Fundamental Media’s Andrew Chesney agreed. “Be aware that one-size generic messaging doesn’t fit everyone,” he said. “Marketers need to look at which part of the advisor audience does drive their flows. You’re probably going to speak in a different way to advisors that personally manage half a billion than to advisors managing $50 million.” Multiple studies – including the Bloomberg Financial Advisor Study, research from Fundamental Media, and others – demonstrate that, he noted. “Shape your messaging,” he added. “Create the personalized experience.”

In order to do that, both Kalfus and Chesney noted, brands need to also understand where they sit in this changing landscape. As technologies increasingly change investing, the Baby Boomer wealth transfer continues and the advisor universe ages – over half are above age 55, Lynn noted – both advisors and asset managers may need to shift their outlook.

“What’s really important is to dig into the mindset” of financial advisors, Lynn said. “There’s a lot of customization that can be done for brands.”

Read more: Bloomberg Media Group launches Financial Advisor Initiative