Investopedia, September 26, 2016, Wendy Connett- How the Wealthy Choose Advisors? First Impressions


How the Wealthy Choose Advisors? First Impressions


Age, gender and race impact how investors choose a financial advisor based on visual first impressions, according to research by Spectrem Group. When an investor’s first impression is from a photograph from a web site or via advertising, older white males have an advantage over female advisors, young advisors and advisors of color, Spectrem’s white paper, Snap Judgments: Do First Visual Impressions Impact Financial Advisor Selection?, found.

“Perceptions play a role in a new investor-advisor relationship, and this research shows that white males and older female advisors are initially regarded as being the most trustworthy and having the most experience,’’ George H. Walper Jr., president of Spectrem, said in a statement. “However, our research has also found that 20% of investors believe their advisor should have a similar cultural background as their own.”

Read on for more about what goes into various investors' initial decisions about an advisor at first sight. (For related reading, see: How to Select a Financial Advisor.)


Spectrem showed high-net-worth investors a group photo of eight adults, each representing a different combination of race, gender and age: older white male, younger female of color, middle-aged white male, younger white male, older white female, middle-aged male of color, middle-aged white female and a young white female. Based solely on the photograph, investors were asked to choose which person they would be most likely to select as their financial advisor.

Who Respondents Chose

The older white male advisor was selected by 33% of investors, which was by far the most popular choice. Overall, the white male advisors were popular as 23% selected a middle-aged white male, which is almost double of participants who chose the older white female advisors (12%).


White female advisors, of which there were three in the photo, were selected by 37% of the investors, with almost no significant gap between older, middle-aged and young (12-13% each).

The young white male advisor was only chosen by 4% of participants—the middle-aged minority male and the younger minority female by 2% each.

The white paper also found that the age, gender and race of the investor can change how they choose a financial advisor based solely on a photograph. Thirty-one percent of investors under the age of 35, for example, chose the middle-aged white male, 24% the older white male and 21% the young white female. As the age of participants increased, the popularity of the older white male rose, while the popularity of the middle-aged white male and the young white female decreased. (For related reading, see: Six Things Bad Financial Advisors Do.)

When it comes to gender, 39% of male investors selected the older white male advisor, compared to only 30% of females. Female investors were far more likely to select the older white female (14% vs. 5% of males) but that was the only category where there was a disparity between investors based on gender.

Affluent minority investors are no less unlikely to select minority or female advisors based solely on their appearance in the group photograph. A composite of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian investors who were surveyed were most likely to choose the older white male, though not as much as their white counterparts (29% vs. 36%). They would next most likely choose the middle-aged white male advisor (21% vs. 25% of white investors).

Affluent minority investors would be more likely than affluent white investors to select the young white female advisor (18% vs. 11%), the middle-aged white female (12%), the middle-aged minority male (5% vs. 1%) and the younger minority female (5% vs. 3%).

The Bottom Line

When it comes to visual first impressions, older white male advisors have an advantage over female advisors, young advisors and advisors of color. Spectrem points out that the findings are only based on first impressions—face-to-face meetings can alter perceptions. “With an increasingly diverse population of investors, there may be a change eventually in how advisors are perceived based on race, age and gender,” the white paper states. (For related reading, see: Why Women Choose Women for Financial Advice.)


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