What’s in a Name?


As the wealth management industry continues to evolve, the actual title of the primary advisor for investors has also changed throughout the years.  At the beginning of the century, most investors relied upon a full-service broker, who was generally called “my broker”. But as online trading began to take over the role of the broker and holistic financial advice grew in importance, the name of what a financial provider was to be called also changed. 

Financial advisor has been the typical moniker for financial professionals in recent history, although that title has come under scrutiny recently with the increased concern over providing “advice” and working in a client’s best interest. Financial firms invest a great deal of time and energy on determining what terms would be ideal to use when describing the individual professionals that are providing services to their clients.

When Spectrem Group asked investors what they preferred their primary financial provider of Wealth Management services be called, 72 percent indicated that “financial advisor” was their preferred title. In second place, but far below “financial advisor” was “financial planner” at 31 percent and “wealth manager” at 29 percent. Financial planner is a title often used by individuals who have obtained their Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. Investors still prefer the broader term “financial advisor” over that, despite it often coming with additional education and expertise.

Another important consideration for financial providers is the name of the corporate unit that services investment and financial services clients. When Spectrem asked investors what title they preferred for the financial unit that was servicing their accounts, more than a third (34 percent) preferred the name “Wealth Management Services”. 

“Financial Management Services” was preferred by 20 percent of investors and “Financial Planning Services” was chosen by 13 percent followed closely by “Financial Advisory Services” at 12 percent. All others fell below 10 percent, including “Private Client Services”, often used by banking organizations, which fell at 5 percent.

Investors need to not only pay attention to the title that an advisor is using, or the name of the division within their financial institution they are working in, but what they actually provide. Investors would benefit from a complete understanding of the services their advisor offers in order to ensure they are receiving everything they would benefit from. If there are services that are not included from their current advisor that they are looking for, it is better to seek a provider by the services they provide, not the name they give themselves.