The perfect number of clients? Survey offers an answer

Sep 9, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

By Lisa Shidler

For advisers, having too few clients can be a dire situation. On the other hand, having too many clients comes with its own traps, snares and pitfalls.

So just how many clients is the right number of clients? Obviously, that figure varies from adviser to adviser, firm to firm. Still, a new survey by Russell Investments found that advisers who said they are happy with the size of their customer roster have anywhere from 210 to 240 clients.

Clearly, zeroing in on that magic number is not easy. Russell found that of the 350 surveyed advisers, only 7% said they are happy with the size of their client roster.

Not surprisingly, 43% of advisers with an average of 140 clients said they wish they had more clients. Surprisingly, half of advisers with an average of 390 clients wish they had fewer clients.

“Three years ago, you would have seen nearly all advisers wanting more clients,” Phill Rogerson, managing director of consulting services at Russell Investments, said. “But now advisers are spending so much time with clients that they realize it's too hard to keep up the level of service with all of these clients.”

Mr. Rogerson believes that the continuing jittery markets are causing advisers to have to work harder to keep up with demanding clients. As a result, it's making them wish they had fewer clients.

The analysis showed that 91% of advisers continue to make changes in their practices to try to stabilize a very nervous client base. Forty-five percent said they're moving transactional clients to fee-based accounts. And 39% said they're selling more annuities.

“Advisers are just doing everything they can to keep clients engaged,” Mr. Rogerson said. “It was striking that we got open-ended comments from advisers saying this is the most difficult time they've seen in their entire career.”

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