Advisor Authority Study

What Matters Most to Clients?

Experience is the key competitive advantage for RIAs and fee-based advisors to retain clients and drive growth

LOUISVILLE, Ky., July 24, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Customer experience is a key competitive advantage that is essential for advisors to attract and retain satisfied clients, is fundamental for the growth and health of a profitable practice—and is expected to increase in importance.

These are among the latest findings from the third annual Advisor Authority study conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by Jefferson National, operating as Nationwide’s advisory solutions business.

This new special report, “Customer Experience: The DNA of the Advisor/Investor Relationship,” provides a 360-degree view—why customer experience matters to advisors, what’s most important to investors, where they align, and the keys to unlock client acquisition, satisfaction and retention—based on an online survey of roughly 1,600 Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs), fee-based advisors and individual investors nationwide.

“Among the many revelations from this year’s Advisor Authority study, we learned that the customer experience is truly the DNA of the advisor/investor relationship—the foundation for building a mutually beneficial partnership that allows investors and advisors to reach their most important financial goals,” said Mitchell H. Caplan, leader of Nationwide’s advisory solutions business. “By serving RIAs and fee-based advisors for more than a decade, we have seen first-hand how advisors achieve the greatest success when the customer experience puts clients first. To gain new clients and earn more of their business, putting the client first is not just a regulatory requirement, it’s a business necessity that is increasing in importance.”

Key to Advisors’ Value Proposition

More than 9 in 10 RIAs and fee-based advisors (94%)—including the most successful who earn more and manage more AUM—say that the customer experience is important to their value proposition. Advisors, including the most successful, most commonly say this is because customer experience improves client retention (27%) and improves the advisor/investor relationship (26%).

Advisors also say customer experience distinguishes their firm from their competitors’ firms (15%) and helps to attract prospective clients (9%). When asked if the customer experience will become more important for attracting and retaining clients in the next twelve months, more than 8 in 10 advisors (86%) agree. Adding new clients is consistently rated as advisors’ top driver of profitability (53% in 2017, 56% in 2016).

Trust Must Come First

To make the advisor/investor relationship work, trust must come first. When asked to select the single most important attribute in their relationship, trustworthiness is rated number one by both advisors (44%) and investors (35%). And communication is key— rated second by both advisors (11%) and investors (16%).

But in their relationship, investors want results—and look for the track-record to prove it. While advisors rate a proven track-record a distant fourth (8%), investors say it ties for second (16%). Proven track-record rates even higher among the High Net Worth (23%), and the Ultra HNW (21%) investors.

Key to Success: Quality Communication, One-on-One Relationships

To create a successful customer experience, advisors must be in sync with investors’ priorities. When asked to select the top factors that contribute to a successful customer experience, advisors and investors agree that quality of communication (39% and 36%) and a personal one-on-one relationship (44% and 35%) are among the top two.

customer experience is truly the DNA of the advisor/investor relationship—the foundation for building a mutually beneficial partnership

To create a successful customer experience investors continue to suggest that technology is no replacement for the human touch—and nothing can replace face-to-face. In the age of instantaneous digital communications, investors and advisors still say face-to-face meetings are their preferred form of communication, rated number one by both advisors (36%) and investors (36%).

Attracting Clients: Experience, Holistic Planning and Fiduciary Standard Matter Most

When asked to name up to three factors that influence investors to work with an advisor, investors’ priorities are clear year-over-year. In both 2017 and 2016, advisor experience is the number-one factor by a wide margin (46% in both years), and personalized advice for a holistic financial picture is second (26% in both years). Serving clients using a fee-based fiduciary standard is a close third, at 25% in 2017 and 24% in 2016.

Guided advice gives investors greater confidence—and greater optimism. When investors are asked to identify the main reason they have an advisor, the number-one factor by a wide margin is to feel more confident in their financial future (30%). Given the pivotal role that advisors serve, it should be no surprise to learn that investors who work with an advisor are more optimistic about their financial outlook for 2017 (59%) than those who do not (40%)—and year-over-year their optimism has increased (59% vs. 47%).

To download the Advisor Authority 2017 special report on “Customer Experience: The DNA of the Advisor/Investor Relationship,” financial professionals can visit:




About Advisor Authority:
The third annual Advisor Authority study explores the investing and advising issues confronting RIAs, fee-based advisors, broker/dealers and investors—and the innovative techniques needed for success in today’s complex market. It features a special focus on the most successful advisors and the most affluent investors. These latest findings are to be followed by a series of special reports that will be released through year-end.
The third annual Advisory Authority study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Jefferson National, now Nationwide’s advisory solutions business, from March 13 – April 7, 2017, among 779 employed financial advisors, ages 18+ and 817 investors, ages 18+ who are primary or shared financial decision makers with investable assets greater than $100K. Among the 779 financial advisors, there were 521 Registered Investment Advisors and 258 Broker/Dealers. Among the 817 investors, there were 208 Mass Affluent, 204 Emerging High Net Worth, 204 High Net Worth and 201 Ultra High Net Worth. And, among the investors, 524 have an advisor, while 293 do not. Investors are weighted where necessary by age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, income, marital status, household size, investable assets and propensity to be online in order to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.
Results of this new research are compared to results from a similar March 2016 study conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Jefferson National among 683 employed Financial Advisors, including 440 Independent Registered Investment Advisors and 243 Broker/Dealers and among 733 Investors, there were 167 Mass Affluent, 184 Emerging High Net Worth, 199 High Net Worth and 183 Ultra High Net Worth. And, among the investors, 458 had an advisor, while 275 did not.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. Because the sample is based on those who were invited to participate in the Harris Poll online research panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. A complete survey method is available upon request.
About Harris Poll
Over the last five decades, Harris Polls have become media staples. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers’ motivations and behaviors, Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. Contact us for more information.
About Jefferson National
Jefferson National, operating as Nationwide’s advisory solutions business, is a recognized innovator of a leading tax-advantaged investing solution for RIAs, fee-based advisors and the clients they serve. Trusted partner to a network of over 4,000 advisors, Jefferson National provides greater efficiency, transparency and choice through an adaptable technology platform, award-winning distribution strategy and cost-effective servicing capabilities. Named the industry “Gold Standard” as of 2012 and winner of more than 50 industry awards, including the DMA 2010 Financial Services Company of the Year. The company serves advisors and clients nationwide, through its subsidiaries Jefferson National Life Insurance Company and Jefferson National Life Insurance Company of New York. To reach our advisor support desk, please call 1-866-WHY-FLAT (1-866-949-3528). To learn more, please visit
About Nationwide
Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. and is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. The company provides a full range of insurance and financial services, including auto, commercial, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; banking and mortgages; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit