Digital and Web Support to FA’s

Final Release
January 22, 2019

Contact: Howard Schneider

New annual report examines trends in websites and digital support used by financial advisors

BOSTON, January 22, 2019 – The significant content and functionality that asset managers, insurance companies, custodians, and other product providers and distributors make available through websites and digital formats has great impact on how financial advisors manage their practices, with most advisors increasingly dependent on these capabilities for key aspects of engaging with clients, according to a new report released today by Practical Perspectives, an independent consulting, competitive intelligence, and research firm working with wealth management providers and distributors.

The 104-page report “Digital and Web Support to Financial Advisors – 2019” builds on prior research and provides a detailed and multi-faceted examination of how RIAs and broker dealer affiliated advisors leverage web and digital support and how advisor needs and use are changing over time. The study looks at the sources advisors rely on most, the approaches advisors use to connect to support, the providers advisors believe offer best-in-class websites and digital support, the characteristics of support advisors find most and least useful, and the enhancements that could increase the effectiveness of capabilities available to advisors.

Some highlights of the report include:

  • While more than 9 in 10 advisors (94%) make some use of asset manager websites and digital support and more than 8 in 10 advisors (86%) use similar capabilities from insurers, these sources are secondary to advisors reliance on broker dealer, custodian, and third-party web and digital resources
  • Most advisors spend less than 5 hours in total per week using digital or web support from asset managers and insurers as many advisors limit use of websites to providers they are familiar with and comfortable using
  • Advisors are twice as likely to be frequent users of web-based and digital tools specifically designed or restricted to advisors as they are capabilities available to the general public (49% vs. 25%)
  • Use of smartphone or digital applications from key sources appears limited among advisors, with less than 1 in 10 advisors frequent users of apps from product providers and more than 1 in 2 advisors not using any applications from asset managers (53% do not use) and insurance providers (59% do not use)
  • Product providers identified as providing best-in-class digital and web support are typically large asset managers and insurance carriers headed by American Funds, Blackrock/iShares, Vanguard, Fidelity, JP Morgan, Nationwide/Jefferson National, Jackson National, and Prudential
  • Key functions advisors perform through provider digital and web support include getting product related information, insights, or analysis (66%), accessing client specific information (58%), getting market or event related information and perspectives (58%), and using online tools (57%)
  • The leading factor associated with product provider websites that advisors consider most useful is ease of use and navigation, with more than 6 in 10 advisors (61%) indicating usability is crucial in the digital support they rely on most often
  • Satisfaction with product provider web and digital capabilities is modest, with only 14% of advisors very satisfied
  • Advisors generally perceive the digital and web support they receive from product providers is on par to best-in-class web support from other industries such as e-commerce or retail financial services, although a notable minority of advisors consider functionality, ease of use, and design to be inferior
  • Changes advisors suggest to enhance the usefulness of digital and web support include better design or navigation, the ability to recognize prior experience or store past history, and greater ability to tailor experiences to their needs or preferences

Virtually all advisors rely on web and digital capabilities from product providers and distributors, although many focus mainly on select providers and are not leveraging the full range of capabilities available to them. Major differences are apparent across key advisor segments in the use of digital support, with frequent users of asset manager and insurance provider capabilities especially distinctive.

“Advisors are dependent on digital support from product providers and other sources to access up-to-date product information and research, perform client service, and use tools such as calculators or illustration software” says Howard Schneider, President of Practical Perspectives author of the report. “The characteristics of capabilities advisors prefer remain consistent over time with usability and relevance to advisors among the leading factors. Yet many advisors still encounter websites and other digital capabilities that are difficult to navigate, have content that is too self-promotional, or which provide resources that are too generic or simplistic. We find that most advisors tend to limit their web use to a few trusted providers they are familiar with and which offer broad capabilities, are simple or intuitive to use, and are designed specifically for financial professionals.”

The report is part of an ongoing series of Marketing and Sales Reports from the author exploring how product providers, broker-dealers, and other firms can more effectively meet the needs of financial advisors. The analysis is based on over 650 on-line surveys completed in December 2018 with advisors and representatives. Those surveyed include wirehouse and regional brokers, independent brokers, financial planners, and Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs).

“Our report offers a unique, in-depth advisor driven view of digital support and how advisor interaction with websites from asset managers and insurers is changing over time. Significant resources are devoted by these firms to delivering digital capabilities and tools to advisors, so it is important to understand how support is perceived, how accessibility and needs are evolving, what can be done to improve satisfaction, and what functionality and features are most relevant to distinct types of advisors” says Mr. Schneider.

The detailed report includes 78 Exhibits and is available for purchase by contacting:

About Practical Perspectives
Since 2002, Practical Perspectives has been providing customized strategic and tactical support to companies involved in the creation and distribution of asset management products and services. We support variety of challenges including marketing, new business development, research, product, competitive intelligence, and retirement issues. The firm publishes a series of reports examining key strategic and development issues from the unique perspective of advisors. Howard Schneider is founder and President of Practical Perspectives and has more than 35 years of experience in the financial services industry working with asset managers, insurers, and other firms involved in the wealth management industry.

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