The disappointment of being fired by a client is felt by most advisors at some point in their career, followed by weeks of agonizing over the client’s decision and trying to find what went wrong. In most situations, it’s difficult to determine the real reason the client left, but identifying the problem can be one of the most important ways an advisor can learn how to better serve current and future clients.
When evaluating the situation, it’s important to think from the client’s perspective. Did they try to express any unhappiness with your service? Do you feel like you spent the necessary amount of time fostering the relationship? Was the decision a result of their portfolio underperforming? There are so many questions to ask yourself to discern if there was any indication the client would be leaving.
In 2014, Vanguard and Spectrem Group surveyed 3,000 households to ask various questions about the residents’ relationship with their financial advisor. One of the questions they asked was:
Which of the following would cause you to change financial advisors?
They offered eight potential responses ranging from portfolio underperformance to advisor responsiveness to phone calls.
The results were much different than you might think: four of the top five responses were communication related, while the response that registered the lowest score was related to portfolio losses! According to this study, the number one reason clients would fire an advisor would be if the advisor didn’t return phone calls or emails in a timely manner.
The CFA Institute surveyed 3,312 retail investors in 2015 and had similar findings. When asked what would make them consider leaving their current investment firm, the participants were given a list of 17 things to choose from. Underperformance was selected as the number one reason a client would leave, but lack of communication came in fourth place, with 38% of clients saying it would make them leave their current investment firm.
But clients are not the only ones who think poor communication is the primary reason advisor relationships fail. A 2016 advisor survey performed by Natixis shows that advisors believe communication with their clients is more important than investment performance. When asked why clients leave, 71% of advisors say it is due to the advisors’ failure to communicate frequently and proactively with their clients, while only 46% of advisors said clients leave due to a failure to meet return expectations.
That may be because, as an advisor, you can spend hours on risk tolerance surveys, asset allocation models, direct client meetings, and even reading prospectuses to try to help clients find the right portfolio. But at the end of the day, whether the markets are up or down is out of your control. You have to trust that the research was correct and the portfolio will perform as expected over time.
Something you can control is your communication with the client.
There are a number of strategies and tools to help advisors be proactive in enhancing communication. Staying in contact with each client on a consistent basis can prevent them from feeling neglected. And, as the surveys referenced above show, consistently communicating with your clients is one of the most effective ways to keep them happy with you and your service.