When it comes to taking care of their own finances, it turns out that financial advisers aren’t much better than their clients.

Almost half (46%) of all the nearly 2,400 planners who participated in a new Financial Planning Association study this year say they have no retirement plan. Another half say they have not written a business plan for themselves, while 75% have no succession plan for their firm.

The findings are part of the inaugural study of the FPA Research and Practice Institute, which seeks to provide deep, tactical findings for practitioners, says Julie Littlechild, founder of Advisor Impact, the New York-based research firm that conducted the study in partnership with the FPA.

Finding the gaps

“We just asked a very broad range of questions of advisers,” Littlechild says. “We dug in to ask, ‘Where are the gaps?’ [The answers] will form the basis of some more quarterly studies on an ongoing basis” from the institute.

Even among those advisers age 65 or older, only 41% said they have a succession plan, the survey found.

Lauren Schadle, the FPA’s executive director and chief executive, suggested that the shortfalls might be due simply to a lack of time. “In any business, your chief priority is to serve your clients and customers. Unfortunately, that often means sacrificing your own well-being,” she said in a statement. “What is encouraging is that our study revealed that younger advisers (those under age 40) are more likely to have a written business plan (61%) than older advisers.” Larger firms are also more likely to have a plan in place than their smaller peers, the study found.

Branding shift

The survey also found more planners shifting toward calling themselves wealth managers. For the purposes of this study, the FPA defined wealth managers as those planners who specialize in comprehensive wealth management and transfer issues, including stock-option planning, executive compensation, complex trust and estate planning and charitable giving. The definition is the same one used in Cerulli Associates studies, according to Littlechild.

The study found that:

  • 76% of money managers indicated they plan to change their practices, with 44% of those saying they will transition to wealth managers.
  • 72% of investment planners indicated they will change their practices, with 46% planning to become wealth managers.
  • 53% of financial planners indicate they will change their practices, with 62% planning to become wealth managers.

Participants in the study included financial advisers, junior-level advisers, support staff and non-adviser management, according to the FPA.
Business challenges

While advisers want to expand by identifying prospects who are good candidates for their services, the FPA says, the study found advisers aren’t even defining who they serve. Only 25% of planners have a formal definition of their ideal client, and only 38% of those say that three-quarters of current clients fit that definition. Fewer than half (43%), meanwhile, had set an asset minimum.

It's imperative for advisers to plan more broadly for themselves and for their businesses, Littlechild says, asking questions like "What do I want for my life? What size of business do I need? ... What is my exit plan?"

Those answers can shape a planner's business, she says: "Your business goals drive your business model. Those should help define the ideal client."

Marsh writes for Financial Planning, a SourceMedia publication.

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