The Scottrade Advisor Services Registered Investment Advisor Survey Summarizing the challenges and opportunities of the RIA industry in 2010

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1 The Scottrade Advisor Services Registered Investment Advisor Survey Summarizing the challenges and opportunities of the RIA industry in 2010 By Christine Mistretta, principal owner of The Linden Hills Group, LLC, on behalf of Scottrade, Inc.

2 Page 2 Introduction Without a doubt, 2009 was a challenging year for registered investment advisors (RIAs). As unemployment rose and consumers became more careful about their money, it stood to reason that these factors would impact RIAs businesses, and that achieving growth would be challenging. It was in this climate that Scottrade commissioned a survey of RIAs to determine how they were faring in uncertain times and how economic conditions were impacting their operations. We also sought to identify other issues that were top-of-mind with RIAs, as well as trends that were likely to impact their businesses over the coming months. The survey found that while it was hardly a business-as-usual year for most RIAs, many devised ways to positively impact their operations in This white paper will summarize the findings of the survey and provide an overview of RIAs vision for the industry in the next year. Executive Summary This survey is the first one commissioned by Scottrade to quantify the opinions of RIAs; the goal is to conduct it annually, tracking data over time to identify industry developments and trends that impact RIAs businesses. The data analyzed in this survey is based on responses received from more than 200 advisors. It was designed to gain an understanding of RIAs current views on managing clients and assets, managing their businesses, the current regulatory environment, investor behaviors and attitudes, and the challenges of starting new RIA businesses. Though this survey is the first of its kind, notable results have already emerged. One of the more surprising findings is that despite the difficult economy, many advisors found ways to grow their businesses in In addition, most of the advisors who reported growth had experienced significant growth, with client-base increases of 10 percent or greater. While many factors likely influenced such growth in a down market, the survey results indicated that those who enjoyed growth earned it through a strong focus on customer service and marketing. It is perhaps less surprising, then, that many RIAs also reported an increase in client satisfaction in The survey also found that tenured advisors (defined as RIAs with 11 or more years of experience) have had a considerably different experience than newer RIAs (defined as RIAs with 10 or fewer years of experience) over the past 12 tumultuous months. For example, newer RIAs were more likely to have experienced growth in their client base than tenured advisors. Conversely, more than twice as many tenured RIAs reported a decrease in client base than newer RIAs. Newer RIAs also reported more consistent growth in their asset bases than tenured advisors. While some of the reasons behind newer RIAs growth remain unclear, the survey did indicate where advisors new clients came from in According to the RIAs who responded to the survey, investors who left full-service brokerage firms were by far the largest source of new clients.

3 Page 3 In this paper, we will investigate the reasons why so many investors are turning away from larger firms and toward independent advisors. We also will investigate some of the proactive measures taken by many RIAs to protect their clients assets to help minimize future losses. During a year of economic highs and lows, many advisors identified opportunities to improve their clients financial positions and took the initiative to realign their clients assets to help guide them toward their long-term investment goals. In summary, the data gathered in Scottrade s survey of RIAs clearly indicates an industry grappling with challenges, but also one that s experiencing positive changes. While it may require added investment to be successful in this economy, both in terms of marketing dollars and increased customer-service efforts it appears that RIAs understand the need for this balance and are increasingly deft at juggling the myriad skills required to keep growing. Survey Highlights: 1. Against the Tide: Many RIAs Report Growth in Changing of the Guard: Investors (and RIAs Alike) are Turning Away from Full-Service Firms 3. Up and Down: The Economy Affected New and Tenured RIAs Very Differently in Falling Short: RIAs Believe Americans Need to Save More for Retirement 5. Planning For the Future: RIAs Make Protective Portfolio Adjustments 1. Against the Tide: Many RIAs Report Growth in 2009 Nearly half (49 percent) of RIAs surveyed reported an increase in the number of clients they serviced in 2009, and the survey revealed that these surprising findings were the result of RIAs ingenuity and perseverance. Nearly all (94 percent) advisors reported some level of activity directed at maintaining or growing their practice. (Figure 1) More than a third said they were more aggressive about marketing their practice, spent more time pursuing new clients, more actively pursued networking opportunities, or created or enhanced their firm s Web site. Figure 1

4 Page 4 Some even increased their hard costs related to marketing, with 26 percent saying they developed new sales materials in 2009, 20 percent saying that they spent more on overall marketing costs, and 16 percent increasing their advertising spend. In other words, many RIAs were determined to take a very proactive approach in response to the economic conditions, rather than continue in a business-as-usual mode. For some of those who took extra measures to grow their business, the results were substantial. Of the advisors who reported growth, more than a third (41 percent) reported an increase in client base of greater than 10 percent. Nine percent of them increased their client base by more than 25 percent. Many RIAs stepped up their efforts with existing clients as well. More than half (54 percent) spent an increased amount of time proactively contacting and counseling clients. It s easy to see why not only is maintaining existing customers a key factor in building a successful business, but about half (48 percent) of advisors noted that the majority of their referrals in 2009 came from existing, active clients. The extra attention RIAs gave to clients delivered solid results; nearly half (47 percent) of advisors saw an increase in client satisfaction in Not all of the news from RIAs this year was rosy, of course. Of those who said they changed the way they managed their business in 2009, 50 percent said they were forced to reduce costs by reducing employee benefits, lowering overhead expenses, and even laying off staff (Figure 2). More than a quarter (27 percent) of all respondents also noted that maintaining profit margins was one of the most significant challenges they faced this year. Figure 2

5 Page 5 2. Changing of the Guard: Investors (and RIAs Alike) are Turning Away from Full-Service Firms Many RIAs (43 percent) started their careers at full-service wirehouse firms, but have since left to pursue independence. In the past year, many investors have followed suit: 31 percent of RIAs said that investors who left full-service firms were their largest source of new clients within the past 12 months, with three quarters of those RIAs reporting that investors leaving full-service firms represented more than half of their new clients this year. (Figure 3) According to RIAs, the top factors that led investors to leave fullservice firms were: The desire for more personalized attention Poor performance Disagreement regarding advice Figure 3 Even at a time when shoring up costs and saving money were top of mind for many consumers and investors alike, only 17 percent of investors switched over concerns that full-service firms were too expensive. (Figure 4) Figure 4

6 Page 6 3. Up and Down: The Economy Affected New and Tenured RIAs Very Differently in 2009 While 2009 was a challenging year for many RIAs, one trend that emerged from the study was that newer RIAs (defined as having 10 or fewer years of experience) were more likely to report both revenue increases and client growth last year when compared to their tenured counterparts with 11 years or more of experience. More than one-third (38 percent) of less experienced RIAs reported revenue growth in the last year, compared to only 24 percent of tenured RIAs. Figure 5 Forty-one percent of less experienced RIAs reported a decrease in revenue in the last year, while far more tenured RIAs (56 percent) reported a decrease. (Figure 5) Fifty-six percent of less experienced RIAs saw an increase in client base compared to only 41 percent of tenured RIAs. (Figure 6) Figure 6

7 Page 7 4. Falling Short: RIAs Believe Americans Need to Save More for Retirement As part of this survey, Scottrade asked RIAs their opinions about the current investment habits of Americans, and whether they feel investors are putting aside enough for their retirement. The overwhelming sentiment from RIAs was clear: Americans need to be saving more for retirement. More than two-thirds (71 percent) do not believe that $1 million, often referenced as a standard investment goal, is enough for the average American family. For Boomers (ages 43-64), around half of advisors recommended a goal between $1 and $2 million. A similar percentage of advisors (56 percent) felt the range also was adequate for seniors age 65 and up. For younger generations, RIAs suggest even loftier goals. The majority of advisors surveyed believe Generation X (ages 27-42) investors should think about doubling that $1 million goal 68 percent think Gen X should be saving at least $2 million, with 22 percent suggesting a savings goal of more than $3 million. (Figure 7) Figure 7 For Gen Y (ages 18-26), advisors strongly recommend that they start saving as early as possible, particularly in light of the uncertain future of Social Security, and that they set their goals high. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of advisors suggest at least a $2 million goal for Gen Y, and more than 40 percent of RIAs surveyed believe that these investors should be targeting $3 million in retirement funds. (Figure 8) Figure 8

8 Page 8 5. Planning For the Future: RIAs Make Protective Portfolio Adjustments Concerned by the challenging economic times, 74 percent of RIAs made portfolio adjustments to help protect their clients against future investment losses in Reallocation and adding more fixed income products to portfolios were the actions most widely taken by RIAs. Other common adjustments included increasing clients diversification and offering more cash or cash alternative products. Those and other proactive measures by RIAs in 2009 have helped to maintain clients during one of the most difficult times for investors and the industry. (Figure 9) Figure 9 About The 2009 Scottrade Advisor Services Registered Investment Advisor Study The 2009 Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) Study commissioned by Scottrade Advisor Services polled 226 registered investment advisors in a proprietary online survey from August 12 through September 30, The national sample was selected from the Discovery database and respondents were asked to confirm current employment as a registered investment advisor in order to be eligible to participate. The margin of error was +/- 6.5 percent. The survey asked questions about a wide range of topics related to individual RIAs experiences over the past year in terms of client base changes and behaviors, changes to their business practices, and feelings toward proposed regulatory legislation. More data from the survey will be made available in the coming weeks. For more information on Scottrade, visit

9 Page 9 About the Publishers Scottrade, Inc. is a leading online investing firm, featuring the largest branch network in the online brokerage industry. The company offers a full line of investment products, online trading platforms and market research tools to help investors take control of their financial futures. Steve Walkenbach is the Executive Director of Business and Product Development at Scottrade. Christine Mistretta is the principal owner of The Linden Hills Group, LLC in Minneapolis, Minn., a consumer insights and strategy development consulting company providing counsel to clients in financial services, retail and consumer products industries. Scottrade provides self-directed investors with online investing services, and does not make recommendations or offer investment advice of any kind. Survey results are provided for informational use only. Answers to Survey questions were not verified. The user assumes all risks of using the materials provided.

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