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.


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Upcoming Event

May 14


Retirement Income Summit

Join InvestmentNews at the 13th annual Retirement Income Summit—the industry’s premier retirement planning conference.Clients and investors continue to search for retirement income solutions and personalized investing advice. This... Learn more

Featured video


Why advisers are pessimistic about the economy

Deputy editor Bob Hordt and senior research analyst Matt Sirinides discuss a recent InvestmentNews survey of advisers, most of whom see a recession ahead before the next presidential election.

Recommended Video

Keys to a successful deal

Latest news & opinion

Advisers throw cold water on FIRE movement

Millennials love it, advisers don't: Turns out, extreme early retirement is a suitable goal for almost nobody.

10 universities with the most billionaire alumni

These 10 American schools have the greatest number of alumni who are billionaires.

Top-performing ETFs of 2018

The markets took a beating last year, but these exchange-traded funds bucked the trend

Morningstar says investors rushed the exits in 2018

Net flows into mutual funds and ETFs were the lowest since the 2008 financial crisis, while money-market funds captured inflows.

Widow awarded $4.2 million by Finra panel for theft by ex-Royal Alliance broker

The former broker, Gary Basralian, earlier pleaded guilty to theft and is facing up to 20 years in prison.


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print