Retirement Trends: Plan Sponsors Focus on Financial Wellness

Fact-Based Trends From Cogent Reports™    

Plan sponsors are increasingly looking for ways to encourage employee engagement with the 401(k) plan. This year two trends are rising to the top. Compared with previous years, more plans are providing employer matching contributions, thus providing an immediate incentive for participants who actively contribute to the plan. In addition, a relatively new trend shows nearly four in ten employers are considering a financial wellness program to help employees address more immediate financial priorities. In fact, the interest in financial wellness programs far outweighs interest in automatic plan features that are more narrowly focused on retirement accumulation as the end goal.

Overall, just 16% of plan sponsors currently offer a financial wellness program for their employees. But importantly, nearly four in ten (38%) say they are likely to consider adding such a program in the future. A view by plan size reveals that the larger employers are leading the charge, as more than one-third (36%) of Large-Mega plans currently offer a financial wellness program. Yet interest in adding a financial wellness program is relatively strong and consistent across plan size segments, with 37% of Micro plans, 43% of Small-Mid plans and 44% of Large-Mega plans open to considering this level of assistance for their employees. These findings suggest that the opportunity to strengthen client relationships is greatest for providers and advisors who think holistically about the financial health and security of the employees they serve. Continue reading

How Institutional Investors React to Marketing

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Asset managers trying to get the attention of institutional investors must go beyond the typical marketing plan. Getting the attention of institutional investors takes place on a completely different playing field.

In contrast to financial advisors, institutional investors are not being bombarded with as many marketing materials, so in theory getting their attention should be easier. However, institutional investors’ marketing consumption behavior is generally confined to the asset managers they are already doing business with or potential managers they are considering when conducting an RFP. This demands an entirely different element of strategy for asset managers when creating their marketing plan, as the challenge for unknown firms to break through to this audience is incredibly difficult.

  • If I don’t recognize the brand or the name … then I probably wouldn’t even look twice at it.” Benefits Director, $750M DC/DB, NYC
  • “I don’t get that much to be honest with you, but I don’t really look at things from providers that we’re not using.” CFO, $20M Endowment, NYC

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Are Financial Wholesalers Going the Way of the Dinosaur?

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As technology becomes a bigger part of how financial advisors do their job, the need for external wholesalers is diminishing—at least in the traditional sense. To stay ahead of this trend, asset managers need to evaluate how well their current sales and marketing strategies meet the needs of advisors, as well as ways to leverage technology and tweak their distribution strategy to ride this impending wave of change.

Key things asset managers need to know:

  • Advisors have less time. Advisors are taking on more responsibility, enduring higher levels of scrutiny regarding how they service customers and utilizing more tools to help facilitate how they do their job. These factors have pushed a full 25% of advisors to decrease the number of wholesaler meetings that they accept. This presents the first challenge: In-person meetings have historically been a very important part of forging and maintaining strong relationships with advisors, so how do asset managers dial down the personal side of selling without putting the stability of the relationship at risk?
  • Technology is leading the way. You hear and read it everywhere. Email is the most effective and most desired form of communication, but the obvious issue is how to stand out among the hundreds of emails that land in the advisor’s mailbox. The second challenge: Email only works if the recipient is already engaged or open to being engaged. Adding another layer, if you are going to rely on email you better be sure the advisor you are trying to connect with actually prefers email. There is a whole subset that prefers social media to email. You can see in this article and video that email is not the way to engage these advisors.

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Using Technology to Differentiate Insurance Claim Service

Technology is disrupting the insurance industry, including the claims arena, from new claims management systems and mobile apps that enable consumers to submit loss reports to a remote adjuster to the use of drones to efficiently gather structure damage data. But are the benefits all one-sided or do customers perceive value in these innovations, too?

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Institutions Sticking With an Active Approach

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Throughout 2016 and into 2017, there has been no shortage of news coverage on the shift of assets from actively managed to passively managed investments in the wealth management industry. With the heightened focus on investment-related fees and increased skepticism over active portfolio managers’ ability to outperform the market index over the long term, many industry pundits are projecting a massive consolidation of active asset managers in the future, with only the strong and the few able to survive.

Yet at least one segment of the market continues to offer opportunity for active managers: the institutional market.

In fact, our research conducted in Q4 2016 found that institutional investors were reaffirming their commitment to actively managed strategies a maintaining or even increasing their active asset allocation levels despite the uncertain political climate during the latter half of 2016. Continue reading

The Irony Behind the Perception of Value

The Irony Behind the Perception of ValueEditor’s note: This is part of our Trust and Value blog series for the financial services industry. In the coming months, we’ll share our thoughts and insight into what is happening and what we are seeing in the data we are constantly updating. Subscribe to FreshMR now so you don’t miss any updates.

Value as well as the perception of value is becoming a bigger challenge for financial services firms in a way that directly relates to trust. These days, value is increasingly questioned rather than assumed. Technology is at the forefront of this challenge because clients often don’t have a “feel” for the value provided in their interactions with financial firms.

Despite the work it takes to develop, maintain and update the ability to transact with the swipe of a card or a touch of an app, seamless transactions do not convey value as one would expect. Continue reading

The Financial Sector Is Up. Building Trust Is Key to Keeping that Momentum

The Financial Sector Is Up. Building Trust Is Key to Keeping that MomentumEditor’s note: This is part of our Trust and Value blog series for the financial services industry. In the coming months, we’ll share our thoughts and insight into what is happening and what we are seeing in the data we are constantly updating. Subscribe to FreshMR now so you don’t miss any updates.

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, the market was recovering after hitting the “Jamie Dimon bottom.” Financial services firms faced another year pressured by low yield, compressed margins, cost cuts and new regulations like the DOL Fiduciary rule.

As the first quarter of 2017 comes to a close, stocks have helped advance the market to record highs. Rates are normalizing, and with that, slowly but surely, providing higher yield. The prospect of regulatory relief, economic growth and even tax reform are buoying the sector.

While things are looking up for the financial services sector, much of the potential positives have yet to actually be realized and, further still, they require political action, which has the endless capacity to disappoint. In addition, a number of long-term factors remain critical for financial services firms to achieve their own potential. Continue reading

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

Studies Show Optimism Is an Economic Catalyst

Studies Show Optimism Is an Economic CatalystMarket Strategies conducts numerous thought leadership studies for our clients. These studies are often released under the client brand so you may not even know they were conducted by us when you read about them in the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, or hear about them on CNBC. While we can’t give away specific findings from our studies, we can tell you that the most recent studies have been impacted by a fascinating polling phenomenon—optimism. Continue reading

Institutions’ Growing Appetite for Risk

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The search for higher returns is the leading driver for asset allocation shifts

Risk-On-Image

The 2016 US presidential election sparked waves of populism and uncertainty. For the financial markets, the possibility of a Trump presidency seemed to cause a risk-on mentality, as his tweets were met with positive market reactions. And even before the Dow Jones Industrial Average surpassed 20,000, institutional investors signaled they were also adding risk. The survey fielding of our US Institutional Investor Brandscape report, fielded from mid-October 2016 to early January 2017, gives us a unique snapshot of the reactions of institutional investors in a distinct period for all of us.

Both pensions and non-profits de-emphasized de-risking as a driver of asset allocation changes this year. While de-risking is less of an issue for non-profits compared with pensions, this finding corresponds to the risk-on market mentality. Importantly, de-risking was the leading driver of asset allocation shifts among pensions in previous years and $1 billion-plus pensions continue to focus on risk. At the same time, corporate defined benefit plans place greater emphasis on the search for higher yield at the expense of de-risking. Continue reading