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How Changing Sentiment Will Change the Industry in 2019

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Priorities are changing for advisors and the clients they serve—but will big firms pay attention?

Each year, we take a step back to reflect on the year that’s nearing a close—and consider how events and trends will shape the coming year.

For advisors, 2018 was about adapting to what had become the new abnormal: A time of disruption and change in which resilience and flexibility became the guiding principles of success.

As we move forward to 2019, one trend that will be carried over is the power struggle between big firms and advisors. Firms will continue to focus on strategies designed to stave off attrition and further tighten the ties that bind advisors to them. And in doing so, many advisors will be torn between the decision to commit themselves, their businesses and their clients to their firms for another 10 years or more—or to consider options that may better serve them in the longer term.

For many, it comes down to the choice between being a “free-will” advisor who has control over his business and how he serves his clients, or to become a “captive” employee, who serves at the discretion of management without ownership or control over his business.

It’s life-changing decisions like these that we discuss with advisors everyday. And in those conversations, a few things have become apparent:

  1. Advisors are more long-term focused than they were in years past, looking beyond the short-term windfalls of recruiting deals.
  2. Advisors are placing greater value on the freedom and flexibility to serve their clients as they see best.
  3. Advisors want to be seen as “true fiduciaries” and, as such, are looking at models that allow them to act as such.

It’s this change in advisor sentiment that is driving the evolution of the wealth management industry, and certainly a force behind the growth of regional firms and the independent space.

Related: The 5 Attributes That Make a Financial Advisor a “Real” Fiduciary

Yet as advisors go through their own metamorphoses, another phenomenon is occurring: Client sentiment is also evolving.

Clients are now more educated. They recognize that their relationships are with their advisors, and fully expect that their advisors are acting in their best interests—that is, serving as true fiduciaries.

Looking forward, the status quo at the big firms may no longer meet the needs of “Client 2.0”. “Product advocacy” will need to take a back seat to “client advocacy” in order to retain their business—and those advisors and firms that recognize this will be the biggest winners going forward.

No doubt that 2019 is going to be an interesting year. Truth be told, there’s never been more opportunities and options for advisors. Make this the year to explore!

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