Investing Is Not a “One Emotion” Sport

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Pre-retirees Express Uncertainty and Hope in Q2 2018

Most parents can attest that raising children is not a “one emotion” sport. The anticipation and joy of witnessing a child reach a milestone like starting kindergarten is often combined with feelings of sadness over the completion the toddler years. The same phenomenon occurs with investing. More often than not, investors report a mix of sometimes conflicting emotions

Global consternation over trade between the US and China coupled with tensions between the US and Russia caused a bumpy start to the second quarter of 2018, instilling feelings of uncertainty and anxiety among affluent investors. Sentiment shifted more toward hope and optimism in May with positive news about the lowest unemployment rate in 18 years and strong Q1 earnings. However, news of the Federal Reserve raising rates and the pace of US GDP growth being the slowest since 2013 overshadowed a more than 3% gain from the S&P 500 for the quarter, to which investors reacted with a mix of uncertainty and hope.

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Building Effective Apps and Websites for Advisors

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Digital tools like apps and websites are increasingly important for asset managers to incorporate and enhance within their overall advisor marketing and engagement efforts. In fact, recent quantitative data gathered by Cogent Reports have found that mobile apps generate a 47% lift in advisor consideration, with websites trailing closely at 46%. While our quant data looked at the impact of mobile apps and websites, we used qualitative techniques to uncover what providers can do to ensure their mobile apps and websites are engaging advisors and providing a consideration boost.

Digital technology is interwoven across all types of advisory tasks from client relationship management, communication, investment research and news consumption to portfolio construction, risk management and asset allocation. Advisors are seeking new technologies to streamline processes and make the dissemination of information easier. So what do advisors want when they’re using these digital tools?

Mobile Apps

While investment news and financial apps are surging in popularity among advisors and are primarily valued for news notifications, asset manager apps are gaining traction for different purposes. Advisors consider these apps valuable for staying on top of product information and accessing client information on the fly. Continue reading

DC Plan Advisors Are Leveling Up

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The defined contribution (DC) plan market is increasingly dynamic with a variety of industry forces and innovations at play, and so, too, is the makeup of the DC advisor population. Findings from our newly released Retirement Plan Advisor Trends™ report reveal important changes in the profile of financial advisors who are active in the DC space, affecting the business relationships these advisors have with plan providers and investment managers.

On the surface, the DC advisor population looks stable, with two-thirds of financial advisors (65%) continuing to oversee DC plan assets. However, DC “dabblers” appear to be backing away from the complexities of servicing the DC market. Today more than nine in ten (93%) Emerging DC advisors—those managing less than $10M in DC assets—report less than one-quarter of their total AUM is comprised of DC business: a significantly greater proportion than in 2016 (88%) and 2017 (86%). Continue reading

Mobile Apps Boost Advisor Consideration

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Whether due to the increasing reliance on technology, the desire to reduce marketing costs, better segmentation or a combination of all of these, it’s clear that asset managers are streamlining their advisor marketing efforts. Continuing a trend we observed last year, the number of advisor marketing touches across all financial services providers has declined. In a recent study of over 1,200 financial advisors, advisors indicate that they receive an average of 95.7 marketing touches from financial providers each month, down from 100.9 in 2017 and 110.1 in 2016.

This decrease in touches is an overall trend rather than the scaling back of one specific medium. With the exception of social media outreach and road show invites, advisors report a continued decrease in the number of touches from email, webinars, internal and external wholesalers and print mailings. Given these facts, with fewer opportunities to reach advisors, it’s imperative for providers to maximize the impact of each touch. Continue reading

Financial Literacy: Exploring the Financial Terms Consumers Do and Do Not Understand

The financial literacy of employees and investors remains an ongoing concern. The common definition of literacy is “competence or knowledge in a specified area.” As organizations seek to evaluate financial literacy, it is important to focus on the competence factor in the current learning environment.

At a time when more information is available than ever, by many orders of magnitude, most consumers will simply wait to google a term when they “need to know” it. Unfortunately, many financial situations do not come with triggers to cue individuals that now they need to know something. Rather, consumers need to start with a functional understanding of key concepts so they can execute financial planning and investing.

In a self-funded study, our financial services research division presented US consumers aged 18+ with a list of commonly used financial and investment terms to gauge a public level of understanding. Respondents self-evaluated how thoroughly they understand the given terms. For some of the terms, a working and ongoing understanding of the concept is important to routine saving and investing.

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The Rise of Model Portfolios—A Blessing or a Curse for Asset Managers?

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The vast majority of advisors rely on model portfolios to meet the needs of their investment clients, further distancing the underlying asset managers from the financial professionals using their products. Many firms are struggling to adapt to changing distribution models that include serving advisors directly as well as through model portfolios provided by the home office or third-party providers.

Nearly half of advisors (47%) say they use models they build themselves. That said, many of these same advisors are starting from templates developed by leading asset managers. Three in ten (29%) use models provided by the home office, while 18% use models offered by third-party providers.

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The Reason Many DC Participant Communication Programs Fail

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In their effort to develop effective participant communication strategies, plan providers need to serve multiple audiences. Participant education needs can vary by generation, investment knowledge, wealth or income level, marital status and even gender. Yet one facet many participant communication professionals don’t consider is intentwhether the individual participant is planning to make a change to his or her retirement plan account. Depending on their level of intent, participants will either require more specific information to inform their upcoming decision, or content that validates their current retirement saving strategies or motivates necessary changes.

Who Are “Ready-to-act” Participants?

Ready-to-act (RTA) Participants are those who are planning to make a change to their current employer-sponsored retirement plan in the near future. And they are few and far between. Our most recent DC Participant Planscape™ survey found that only one in six participants intends to make a change to his or her plan investments and even fewer (13%) are likely to increase their contribution amount in the near future. RTA Participants are more likely to be male, younger (Millennial or Gen X) and use advice to manage their investment portfolios. In fact, half of RTA Participants planning to make an investment change are working with a financial advisor. Conversely, Not Ready-to-act Participants, those who do not anticipate making changes to their retirement plan accounts, are much more likely to be self-directed, managing their investments without any professional assistance. Continue reading

Technology Changed the Purchase Journey, Now Research Has to Change Too

How Brands Can Benefit from Path-To-Purchase ResearchDo you know where your customers are coming from, how they decide which providers they choose and why? Technology has drastically changed the purchase journey for most businesses on multiple levels. Most purchase journey research is still treating the path as linear even though it is becoming increasingly dynamic and web-like, with unlimited interactions. While the linear-path to purchase journey research allows you to gain a general understanding of what your customers’ purchase path looks like, it doesn’t give you the details to craft a high-functioning customer acquisition and retention plan.

The reality is that capturing “how and when” people buy is pretty easy. But the journey is complex, so the tough part is distilling the data into useful information so you know exactly which actions to take. Path-to-purchase research should go beyond what the journey looks like—it should reveal the most important interactions for your potential customers and your brand. Continue reading

The Power of Consistency

The Power of ConsistencyConsistency sounds boring. We’re going to have chicken and broccoli for dinner again. I ran my 30 minutes on the treadmill again. Consistency doesn’t lead you to discover the perfect town when you’ve made a wrong turn or meet the band when you’ve stayed well past the encore at a random weekday concert. But consistency can be powerful. Continue reading

More Employers Are Offering Financial Wellness Programs This Year

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Defined contribution (DC) plan sponsors wear many hats within their organizations, often juggling responsibilities like employee satisfaction, benefits and of course, the management and oversight of their firm’s 401(k) plan. Many are now adding employee financial wellness to the list, as employee happiness and reduced stress both in and out of the workplace are proven to increase the quality and quantity of deliverables and output. A recent report from PwC found that 25% of employees admit that stress from financial issues has been a distraction at work and 18% indicate financial stress has impacted their productivity.* Financial wellness offerings give plan sponsors an impactful way to share financial guidance with their workforces in an attempt to diminish financial stressors.

This year, significantly more plan sponsors are incorporating financial wellness offerings into their benefits programs (21% up from just 16% in 2017.) This increase is being driven by companies in the Small-Mid plan size segment ($5M to less than $100M in plan assets), where 30% of plans are now offering these types of programs. Continue reading