The competition among financial providers is fierce. While tending to their current clients daily, these companies seek new clients with advertising on every available form of communication.
The proliferation of internet advertising has only made the competition more active. With investors using the internet to research their own investment decisions, pop-up ads appear on virtually every website that might provide such information.
How new investors determine which company to work with is a matter of advertising researchers, who determine what message works best for investors who are not currently aligned with a provider. But there is Spectrem research that shows which providers are most admired in different categories of service by affluent investors.
Spectrem’s quarterly wealth segmentation series study Asset Allocation, Portfolios and Primary Providers asked investors to rate approximately 25 of the leading financial providers in a variety of categories to determine which have the highest approval rating of those investors.
“There are numerous services financial providers offer that differentiate the companies from each other,’’ said Spectrem president George H. Walper Jr. “Companies at the lower end of our list can look at the companies at the top of the list and determine what makes them so successful in these categories. They can then emulate those performances or find a new way to create similar levels of appreciation from investors.”
Spectrem has been conducting this survey of investors for a number of years, and the research is most telling when comparing current results with results from half a dozen years ago to see which companies are improving their relationship with investors and which relationship is suffering.
Since 2010, the top two companies in the eyes of Ultra High Net Worth investors with a net worth between $5 million and $25 million are Vanguard and Fidelity. Today they rank 1-2 (with Vanguard on top) in the following categories: most expertise in managing money, most innovative products and services, most talented advisors and staff, most trustworthy and transparent, and most likely to increase usage of.
Five companies do battle to fill out the top five in each of those categories: Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust, T.RowePrice, JP Morgan Chase and Charles Schwab.
(From the similar questions asked of Millionaire investors with a net worth between $1 million and $5 million, Vanguard and Fidelity still own the top spots, but several other companies appear in the top five in at least one category: Citi, Lincoln Financial, Edward Jones and TD Ameritrade).
While Vanguard and Fidelity ranked 1-2 in many of those categories back in 2010, there are some differences. For instance, Northern Trust ranked No. 1 in talented advisors and staff back in 2010, but have dropped to third. In other categories, several companies appeared in the top five and are not listed anywhere today: UBS (was third in likely to increase usage of and fifth in innovative products and services in 2016), Credit Suisse (was fifth in talented advisors and staff) and Wells Fargo (which was fourth in likely to increase usage of).
The problems Wells Fargo had in the past year related to opening millions of fake investor accounts due to an overriding competitive nature in-house has dropped that firm from the top five in any Spectrem category. One year ago, Wells Fargo was in the top five for “most visible social media presence” and “most likely to increase usage of” but those ratings no longer apply to Wells Fargo.
Top Takeaways for Advisors
The value of the Spectrem research is in determining which companies are operating in a way that investors appreciate. With that information, advisors can see if their own firm is operating in the same way, or if some of their decisions are going against the grain in a way that hurts their reputation among investors.
There is more than one way to operate as a financial provider, and these rankings do not say companies not in the top five are operating improperly. However, any firm that gets a top rating in the Spectrem research is one that investors are likely to promote and recommend with their friends, family members and business associates.
©2017 Spectrem Group