Enjoy the current installment of “weekend reading for financial planners” – this week’s edition kicks off with the announcement that both Schwab and Fidelity are further expanding their list of commission-free (i.e., No Transaction Fee or NTF) ETFs, further expanding their offerings from both BlackRock and State Street, along with a number of secondary ETF providers… but still with the notable absence of Vanguard’s ETFs, as the battle of RIA custodians requiring back-end shelf space payments for access to NTF platforms continues to heat up (and raising the question of whether Vanguard may someday launch its own RIA custody platform with open access to all ETFs on a no-transaction-fee basis, to match its recent retail NTF ETF offering). Also in the news this week was the announcement that UBS is looking to launch its own internal independent channel, ostensibly to further stem the tide of brokers still moving independent even after the firm left the Broker Protocol.
From there, we have several articles on practice management, including: how industry benchmarking data shows that advisory fees are not declining (despite robo-advisor competition), but profit margins are beginning to suffer as advisory firms reinvest into providing more value-added services to justify their current fees in the face of competition; why it’s important to focus on service to clients and not pursue industry recognition awards (and more generally, the danger of “vanity metrics” that can distract from an advisory firm’s core focus); and how to think about segmenting services to clients in order to serve smaller clients profitably.
There are also a number of marketing articles this week, from some tips from marketing directors at large RIAs about what smaller RIAs could be implementing as well, to ways to show clients you’re really “worth it” when trying to justify fees, why new clients toss the typical advisor’s Welcome Packet in the trash (and how to make it better), and an interesting tactic of learning more about your ideal clients and what they really care about by simply trying to figure out what their favorite magazine would be (because niche magazines themselves have often already spent extensively on researching what’s most important to their niche clientele).
We wrap up with three interesting articles, all around the theme of industry change and disruption: the first looks at Ken Fisher of Fisher Investments, which recently crossed the stunning threshold of $100B of assets under management, driven heavily by aggressive spending in marketing even as most advisory firms maintain there’s no value to spending on marketing for clients; the second examines the big buzz at the recent Inside ETFs conference, that even as ETFs continue to disrupt the mutual fund industry, the next disruptor – of ETFs themselves – may have already appeared, in the form of technology-driven “Direct Indexing” that replaces the need for funds altogether; and the last similarly looks at how, even as Vanguard grows in its dominance amongst asset managers, changing competitive dynamics raise the question of whether Vanguard itself will have to restructure under new CEO Tim Buckley to stay ahead over the next 10 to 20 years.
And be certain to read to the end, where we include a video from advisor tech guru Bill Winterberg, highlighting some of the notable advisor FinTech trends on display in the VEO Village at the recent TD Ameritrade National LINC conference!
Enjoy the “light” reading!