Historically, different financial advisors operated different business models depending on their industry channel – RIAs managed investment portfolios, while wirehouses sold proprietary products and securities from their inventory, and independent broker-dealers sold third-party investment products. Accordingly, asset managers and product manufacturers aligned their investment wholesalers to those channels, with one for wirehouses, another for independent broker-dealers, and a third for the independent RIA community. The challenge, though, is that as the advisor value proposition evolves, along with industry business models, and the regulatory environment, the “traditional” industry channels are breaking down as a way to segment financial advisors!
In this week’s #OfficeHours with @MichaelKitces, my Tuesday 1PM EST broadcast via Periscope, we discuss, from the investment wholesaler perspective, the four different types of financial advisors that have emerged, how they differ based on client approach and value proposition, and how wholesalers can best add value to these different types of advisors!
The key issue is to recognize that financial advisors tend to have fundamentally different ways in which we frame our own value proposition, and approach client situations, that are no longer necessarily defined by industry channel. And this matters, because when companies with their own wholesalers are trying to reach advisors, the ways in which an advisor approaches their clients and define their own value proposition heavily impacts what that advisor will and will not see as valuable from their wholesalers!
For instance, some advisors taking a very financial planning-centric approach to clients, while others are more investment-centric. And when it comes to delivering value to clients, some are more advice-centric, and others are more product-centric. Thee various combinations result in four categories of financial advisors: (1) fee-for-service financial planners; (2) investment managers; (3) needs-based sellers; and, (4) asset gatherers.
From the perspective of the wholesaler, it is crucial to recognize that each of these segments receives different value from a wholesaler, and demands different types of products and services. Because if an advisor is an asset gatherer, they are going to want to see a product that can easily help them gather assets… but if they are needs-based sellers, they will want planning strategies and sales ideas… and if they are an investment manager, they will want products that they can manage to demonstrate their own expertise (without outsourcing to other active managers!)… and if an advisor is a fee-for-service financial planner, they will want solutions that help them simplify investment management to free up time to service clients and focus on planning. Thus, investment managers (which might be an RIA or a Rep-As-PM at a broker-dealer) tend to use stocks, bonds, and ETFs, but asset gatherers (which might be RIA or at a broker-dealer) are more likely to use multiple TAMPs and SMA, and fee-for-service financial planners (usually RIAs) will typically just use one TAMP for all of their assets and be uninterested in individual investment products at all!
The bottom line, though, is simply to recognize that the whole advisory industry is in the midst of reorienting itself, and trying to segment financial advisors by wirehouse, broker-dealer, and RIA industry channel no longer works. Advisors are reinventing their value propositions and where they focus, while DoL fiduciary further forces firms to re-draw their lines and tech innovation accelerates these trends. Which means, if wholesalers want to reach financial advisors and add value to them, wholesalers need to pay attention to the four different types of financial advisors!