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Understanding Today’s Affluent

Executive Summary

As its title suggests, this report based on The Oechsli Institute’s 2015 Affluent Client Research is designed to provide firm principals and their financial advisors with insight into today’s affluent clientele. This insight can be significant because The Oechsli Institute conducts annual simultaneous research on both the affluent and financial advisors, allowing us to uncover trends. For instance, we uncovered the impact of word-of-mouth influence, personalized service, and relationship building on affluent decision-making back in our 2004 affluent research. Over the past decade we’ve seen these trends grow stronger.

A decade-long trend that is quite disturbing, and that should be a concern for financial services firms, is the gap between affluent expectations and what the general population of financial advisors is actually delivering.

For instance, affluent investors place more importance than ever on having a business and social relationship with their financial advisor. It’s a trust issue. The deeper they know their advisor, the more they learn to trust them on a personal level. When we asked elite advisors to describe their relationship with clients, the majority said that they’ve taken the actions to deepen these relationships, but the affluent don’t agree.

  • 28% of the affluent report having a business and social relationship with their financial advisor.
  • 74% of financial advisors report having a business and social relationship with their affluent clients.

This is an obvious disconnect, and it highlights a disquieting reality: Many financial advisors are not really connecting with their affluent clients.

In addition, one of the more intriguing plotlines in our industry is the current inability to connect across client generations. To examine this further, in certain instances throughout this report, we’ve segmented our affluent respondents into the standard age categories:

  • Millennials – Under 35
  • Generation X – 35-49
  • Baby Boomers – 50-69
  • Seniors – 70 and older

What we have found is there are more similarities than differences within age groups regarding their expectations of financial advisors. For instance, although all age groups reported that they were uncomfortable being asked for a referral, Millennials and Gen Xers were most uncomfortable (only 16.7% happy to help) while Seniors were the most responsive, at 29%. Another area is promptly returned calls: Only 20% of Millennials report receiving returned calls from their advisor within two hours, compared with 34% of Boomers.

As you’ll read throughout this report, if financial advisors immerse themselves in the world of the affluent and make the necessary adjustments, they may enjoy the many benefits of being the primary financial coordinator for their affluent clients.

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