Practice Management

Advisory firm clients value these words more

Certain terms should be used — and avoided — when advisers offer value propositions, Pershing study concludes

Oct 25, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

By Sarah Min

For financial advisers who want to differentiate their firms, the words they use to describe their businesses matter.

Even though 63% of investors believe advisers all make the same promises and they have trouble distinguishing between them, the messaging that advisers use to convey their service offerings should be updated to reflect the most current language from changing trends, according to results of a recent BNY Mellon's Pershing survey.

For example, "comprehensive" has an 84% preference with investors over words like "holistic" or "expansive." And "committed" had an 89% preference, compared to words like "unwavering," in a survey of 1,000 high-net-worth clients from advisers identified as top professionals. The survey was conducted by Harris Poll to discern what investors think of their advisers' value propositions.

These are not words that investors preferred when they were surveyed in 2014, the report said.

Meanwhile, phrases like "peace of mind" were found in the recent survey to be overused and trite when trying to appeal to investors.

"Our study shows that while most advisers recognize the importance of a compelling value proposition, many don't quite know how to create one," said Janet Kelly, vice president for practice management consulting at BNY Mellon's Pershing, in a statement. "Many advisers fall into the trap of using industry jargon, generic terms or trite clichés in an attempt to distinguish themselves, which doesn't resonate with clients."

(More: 5 principles that set apart top-performing advisory firms)

With increased pressure on financial services firms, advisers who want to differentiate their businesses should formulate a vision that clearly articulates the firm's specific offerings and specializations for clients. The study advised that value propositions should combine four things: attributes of the firm, benefits to the client, a rational argument for the need of its services and an emotional component.

"Those who are successful talk in terms of true client benefits. So, you're using words that are much more emotional and relevant to the life of the client," said James Spiegelhoff, director and head of marketing and practice management consulting at BNY Mellon's Pershing.

The study also found that financial advisers are not spending enough time honing their social media presence. Two out of five investors, and 73% of younger investors, search for their advisers through Google. One in three investors have found an adviser's personal Facebook page, and of those, more than half decided not to work with them.

Additionally, high-net-worth clients want their advisers to speak on more than just their finances. The report found that seven out of 10 clients believe that it is extremely important that advisers also address their lifestyles and ensure that they feel confident, self-assured and empowered.

(More: New FPA survey reveals characteristics of top advisers)

"We help you make more informed and effective financial decisions that allow you to feel relieved, confident, self-assured and empowered — and feel good about your wealth," read an example of a model value proposition.

Millennial investors, those under the age of 40, care more about lifestyle and work/life balance, according to the study. Gen X clients are more goal-oriented, while baby boomers were found to be more conservative and focused squarely on preservation of wealth and income. The study found that older generations prefer a traditional tone.

"It really comes down to knowing who you work with, who your clients are and tailoring the language to how you serve the client well," Mr. Spiegelhoff said.

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