A Clear and Unique Value is Critical Because Everyone Wants to Eat Your Lunch


Financial advisors are facing more competition from more directions than ever. With so much choice, there are more reasons now than at any point in the past why you must represent something specific your target clients want if you hope to attract referrals.

 In an article on RegisteredRep.com last week, Kristen French enumerated some of the ways everyone is eating your lunch. E*Trade and Charles Schwab are adding managed account solutions to compete for wealthier clients’ portfolios. Private banks are going downstream from the ultra affluent to the mass affluent. Private client groups at banks have already grabbed 47 percent of the high net worth market, according to Cerulli, and their share is growing.

 Andrew Gluck has written about free financial applications that are attracting young professionals before they ever show up on our radar, increasing the likelihood that they will perceive less need for an advisor once they do show up. He has also written about Wealthfront, a company that started out by trying to attract clients advisors do not want, but with plans to move into the demographics advisors want badly.

 All these developments should set off alarm bells if you cannot easily articulate why your target clients are powerfully drawn to do business with you (and air raid sirens if you cannot succinctly describe who your target client is without resorting to tired and ineffective old pseudocategories like “pre-retirees and retirees with more than a million dollars to invest”).

 In this environment of increasing competition and fee compression, it will become difficult or impossible to prosper unless you represent a specific solution or experience your target client is looking for. Something a large institution or computer program cannot provide. Service won’t do it – banks can credibly provide that. A good investment process won’t do it – Financial Engines Advisors has Bill Sharpe’s wisdom embedded in its code (and $37 billion under management) and you don’t have a Nobel.

 To successfully attract and retain an ongoing stream of clients, it is becoming ever more important to provide something that makes you easily and clearly different from other advisors, institutions and apps. Something your clients want that other firms do not or cannot provide (or cannot articulate).

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