Over the past decade, it has become increasingly popular for publications to cite the assets-under-management (AUM) of an advisory firm when quoting from someone at the firm. Ostensibly, an advisory firm’s AUM is meant to connote its success and relevance; the larger the AUM of the firm, the more the apparent success of the person being quoted, and the more we should all pay attention to what he/she is saying. Or so the media seems to imply.
Of course, the reality is that AUM says little about the actual quality of a firm’s financial planning services or the success of its clients; in fact, it doesn’t even indicate whether the firm does financial planning in the first place! Accordingly, some has suggested that better alternatives might be to look at the years of experience of the planner instead, to adjust for and acknowledge the fact that advisors can have excellent knowledge and insight even if their personal goal was not to grow a huge pile of AUM (or for that matter, in the event they decided not to even run an AUM business model in the first place!).
Yet at the same time, this raises the question: what should we be using to evaluate and measure the success and quality of a financial planning firm? After all, if we can’t even measure it, how can we possibly manage it and work towards improving it? Would a better alternative be to look at client satisfaction surveys? What about the percentage of recommendations that are implemented? Or the time horizon it takes for them to be implemented? How do you measure the quality and success of your financial planning services for your clients?