Sonia Sharigian

About Sonia Sharigian

Sonia is a senior product manager for Cogent Reports with more than 10 years of experience in journalism, marketing and research. She has managed numerous qualitative and quantitative studies in the financial services industry, as well as the hospitality, consumer packaged goods and retail sectors. Prior to Market Strategies, Sonia served as a community manager for Communispace Corporation, where she helped major brands generate game-changing insights via online communities. She also worked as a public relations specialist for Putnam Investments and as a staff reporter for Community Newspaper Company. Sonia earned an MBA from Boston University School of Management and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Simmons College. She is an ardent Patriots fan who recently became hooked on sprint triathlons.

Going Beyond Traditional Advisor Segments to Increase Marketing ROI

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All Cogent Advisor Segments

Asset managers are collecting more data on financial advisors than ever but often struggle to transform their CRM systems into relevant and meaningful opportunities for advisor outreach and engagement. Undoubtedly, the competition for the attention and assets controlled by financial advisors (FAs) is intensifying, prompting many asset managers to seek better ways to target and communicate with advisors.

Data analytics and distribution teams spend about half of their time on data acquisition and data management, with just 14% of their time on more advanced analytics that fuel advisor segmentation and sales-lead generation, according to Applying Data to Distribution, a report by Ignites Research.* Perhaps more astonishingly, the report reveals that only one-third (39%) of asset managers incorporate advisors’ content preferences into advisors’ CRM systems, and one-fifth (11%) categorize financial advisors by types or “personas” that help determine their sales and marketing approach.

The current methods for segmenting the FA population for sales and marketing tend to be broad in nature and fail to take into account important differences in the attitudes, mind-set and preferences of FAs. Often, the desire to send more-targeted, customized communication is there, but firms fall short in their efforts to implement effective strategies given the additional time and money required to create their own proprietary models. Continue reading

DC Advisors Don’t Feel Support in Wake of DOL Fiduciary Ruling

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The Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary ruling, despite not being fully enacted, as well as the recent calls for repeal and uncertainty regarding timing, has already altered the financial services industry substantially. Heightened fee scrutiny throughout the retirement industry is causing many DC plan providers to be on the defensive, focusing on ways to avoid the next potential pitfall. And although providers may be trying, half of DC advisors report they are not getting enough support from providers with regard to the new rules and regulations. This perceived lack of support in a time of great change will undoubtedly affect advisor perceptions of and loyalty to the providers they work with regardless of the future of the ruling. Continue reading

Building Successful Advisory Relationships

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Amid an era of seemingly unprecedented political and global change, questions around the health and longevity of the financial markets abound. Investor trust in the financial community continues to be tested as factors beyond investors’ control threaten to jeopardize their retirement savings and financial wellness. Meanwhile, ongoing news coverage on the status of the DOL fiduciary ruling, sharpened emphasis on fees and the emergence of robo-advisory services as an alternative to traditional advice models are creating new challenges in the advisor industry. As such, understanding how investor-advisor relationships are established, the key drivers of advisor consideration, satisfaction and loyalty, and the role of trust and value has never been more imperative for advice providers.

Affluent investors don’t typically seek sweeping changes, especially when their long-term goals are funding a stable and healthy retirement. Nonetheless, when trust wanes and cheaper alternative solutions such as robo-advisors are within reach, change can become an attractive option. With those dynamics in mind, we are excited to kick off a qualitative study to explore the critical factors at stake across the key stages of the investor-advisor relationship life cycle. We’ll explore: Continue reading

Custom Target Date Fund Recommendations on the Rise

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A growing number of DC specialists—financial advisors managing at least $50 million in DC assets—are now recommending customized funds to their plan sponsor clients, further signaling a potential shift in the target date fund marketplace. In fact, this segment’s customized fund recommendations have increased significantly from 5% in 2015 to 15% in 2016.

What’s more, nearly half of DC specialists (46%) continue to advocate using an external manager for target date funds rather than the proprietary target date funds offered by the current plan recordkeeper. This is further evidence that incumbent recordkeepers must continue to up their game in this increasingly competitive marketplace.

At the individual brand level, DC specialists are equally likely to tap American Funds and Vanguard as their target date fund provider, while American Funds enjoys a stronger advantage across all other DC AUM segments. Emerging DC advisors—financial advisors managing under $10 million in DC assets—also gravitate to Vanguard, Fidelity, T. Rowe and BlackRock when recommending target date fund providers to clients. Continue reading

Participant Satisfaction: What Can DC Plan Providers Control?

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Investment performance. It is both the biggest driver and one of the biggest barriers of DC participants’ satisfaction with their plan provider. Of course, participants seeing positive rates of return on their quarterly statements are naturally going to be more satisfied than those seeing lower returns. But this can often be rather frustrating for providers, who have limited control over how well the underlying investment managers perform on their line-ups.

But performance isn’t everything and there are a number of key aspects of the DC Participant experience fully within provider control ―website and online capabilities, retirement planning tools, account statements and enrollment processes round out the top five drivers of DC provider satisfaction. Continue reading

DOL Fiduciary Ruling Prompting DC Advisors to Shift Focus

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DC Advisors Admit Focusing More on Compliance, Less on Adding Client Value as a Result of DOL Fiduciary Ruling

As previously predicted, an overwhelming 73% of financial advisors agree that the DOL fiduciary ruling is driving the industry toward a fee-based compensation structure, causing a significant amount of anxiety among advisors, and DC advisors are no exception. As a result, many DC advisors are altering their approach to rollover/distribution advice and are spending more time thinking about compliance than about adding value for their clients.

Emerging DC advisors (advisors managing less than $10M in DC assets) are more likely than Established DC advisors (managing $10M+ in DC assets) to succumb to knee-jerk emotions arising from the threat of lawsuits and broker checks and blemishes on the overall industry reputation. This could be a result of more limited resources within their advisory firms to deal with these potential costs. Continue reading

Robo-Advisors Lacking Key Human Element

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Robo Advisors Lacking Key Human Element

Everyone is talking about robo-advisors, which has caused a lot of tension among financial providers and traditional advisors, but is the popularity of these services overblown? This year, we sat down with financial advisors and affluent investors to discuss how they see the role of the advisor is changing in relation to robo-advisors. What we found is surprising—despite the perception that robo-advisors are taking over, it is clear that the actual role robo-advisors are anticipated to play is neither fully defined nor fully trusted. Investors aren’t looking to abandon their advisor relationships anytime soon.

What Investors Are Saying about Robo-Advisors

While investors may test the waters with robo-advisory services, there is still a strong need for human interaction. As we traveled the country talking to investors, we consistently heard this sentiment:

“I like the idea of robo but there’s something to be said also just for the personal contact….almost like a psychologist, just to reassure.” –An investor in San Francisco

Continue reading

Rollover IRA Choice Pivots on Brand Trust

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Brand Trust

When it comes to attracting rollover dollars, brand trust and provider consideration are becoming increasingly interconnected. When plan participants are asked why they would consider a specific firm for a rollover IRA, 35% select brand trust, far outweighing all other factors. Additionally, the aspect of trust grows more essential as participants age. Among the Silent Generation, 65% of participants cite “is a brand I trust” as a reason for selecting a rollover provider while only 30% of Millennials cite trust as a consideration factor. This increase in the importance of trust with age stresses the need for providers to foster relationships over time. Continue reading

ETF Growth Encompasses Multiple Markets

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It’s no secret that ETF use is up. In fact, a multitude of industry forces are fueling the growth in the ETF category, and the momentum is only poised to continue. Not only in one market, either. ETF use is reaching new levels among advisors, affluent investors, DC plan sponsors and both US and international institutional investors. While this is great news for top ETF providers, many smaller providers are nipping at their heels. The influx of growth will bring in new players and new challenges that providers will need to be aware of in order to survive and prosper.

In nearly all of our Cogent Wealth studies, we ask respondents about ETFs, which gives us a unique perspective on the category. We have gathered ETF-related findings from five of our most popular reports to provide a broader understanding as to why this category is experiencing such steady, and at times, extraordinary growth.

The following are the most important factors in what industry leaders will need to consider to continue to stay informed and be able to pivot when needed.

Focus on Fees

Across all sectors of the financial services industry, there is clear evidence of increasing pressure on product providers to reduce the fees associated with their investment offerings. In addition, the recent Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary ruling is pressuring product providers and advisory firms to defend their fee structures and offer lower-cost options to clients whenever possible. Upon examining our data, it’s clear that this heightened focus on costs and fee transparency is strengthening the appeal of ETF products across all markets. Continue reading

New DOL Fiduciary Ruling Sparking Unprecedented Levels of Advisor Anxiety

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Advisor Anxiety

While advisors agree with the overall concept and spirit of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary ruling, concerns ring aplenty, as the vast majority have yet to be convinced that the new legislation will deliver on its intent. First and foremost, advisors lament that the DOL fiduciary ruling is casting an overall negative industry gloom and is fueling investors’ focus on fees.

Perhaps even more importantly, advisors believe that the DOL action is forcing them toward a fee-based compensation structure and limiting their product selection. As such, advisors fall into two camps: those who are already fee-based see the DOL action as formalizing an inevitable market shift, while commission-based advisors fear that commoditizing their service puts them at greater risk of being undercut by cheaper automated advice services. Continue reading