Advisers may have been shut in during the pandemic, but they haven’t been shut out. In the six months since Covid-19 concerns shuttered offices around the country, most advisers have not experienced a dip in new client growth, new data shows. In fact, more than a third of advisers onboarded more clients in the past six months than they did during the same period in 2019.
The findings come from a series of adviser surveys conducted by InvestmentNews Research and Transamerica to get a pulse of how the industry is adjusting business practices in the wake of the pandemic. The first survey, conducted in mid-September, focused on client prospecting.
The data on prospecting was largely encouraging. In the six-month period from March to September, 71% of advisers surveyed had brought on at least as many new clients as they did in the same period the prior year, and 35% of advisers actually drove more new business.
For those who continued to build their business through the early pandemic months, the growth largely came from new pipelines, not existing prospects that were already in the sales funnel. More than half (54%) of the advisers who added more clients in 2020 claimed that fewer than a quarter of those additions were prospects they engaged with before March. Similarly, 41% of the advisers who said new client growth was steady over both periods reported that less than a quarter of their new clients came from relationships that were nurtured before the pandemic.
Client referrals lead the way by far
When it came to engaging new prospects, client referrals stood out as the most effective sales tactic, followed by outgoing phone calls and virtual meetings. The success of client referrals during the pandemic may encourage more firms to formalize the process. According to the 2020 InvestmentNews Pricing & Profitability study, only 29% of firms have a formal process in place for asking for referrals from existing clients.
While referrals, phone calls and virtual meetings may have been the most successful tactics in recent months, the chart below shows that anything was on the table, and that advisers had success with various types of outreach.
For advisers, the end to in-person meetings often meant a re-write of the sales and marketing playbook. But many were quick to adjust.
“We took the marketing plan we had in January and we ripped it up,” said Andrew Altfest, president and principal adviser at Altfest Personal Wealth Management. “The best thing we did was that we adjusted to the new environment.”
Altfest increased spending on digital marketing, but the firm’s advisers also listened to clients and prospects about what was on their mind so they could provide the most relevant content for an extraordinary environment. For example, many of the firm’s clients and prospects are business owners.
“The only one, two and three things (business owners) cared about in March and April was the CARES ACT and PPP loans,” Altfest said. “So we quickly developed competency around PPP loans.”
Through a targeted, client-centered content approach and by partnering with centers of influence that would extend their reach, Altfest conducted webinars on a number of timely topics that helped with prospecting.
Other firms had success with creative virtual events. Campbell Wealth Management, told InvestmentNews in September that it had ran more than 70 virtual events in 2020, with interesting themes such as a healthy cooking class with a champion from the television show Chopped and a health and wealth event with a physician.
Megan Carpenter, co-founder and CEO of FiComm Partners, says she has seen advisers begin to use video more creatively since the pandemic. In one example, she said advisers were using video to virtually introduce themselves before first meetings by creating a short, personalized video message they send in an email. She has also seen more advisers using video meetings to answer the most frequently asked questions they get from clients and prospects.
Unusual Times Provide New Opportunities
While gaining new clients during stay-at-home orders was a challenge, advisers did have one thing working in their favor: Need. An economic downturn, the first bear market in 11 years, the desire for many to go ahead and retire early were all reasons investors may have sought out financial advice for the first time.
That disruption has meant opportunity for advisers. Most advisers who have grown their client base during the pandemic onboarded new clients who were either previously self-directed (59%) or first-time investors (29%). The chart below looks at the types of clients that were added by those advisers who boosted or maintained new client growth during the pandemic.
The ability of advisers to onboard an array of client types – all while utilizing new avenues to reach them – shows advisers may be adapting to the new, post-pandemic normal quite well.
Up Next: The next article in our series will explore how advisers are operating since the pandemic takes a closer look at how firms are navigating the remote working environment.
Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, investment, legal, medical or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent professionals for answers to your specific questions.
As our second lead editor, Cindy Hamilton covers health, fitness and other wellness topics. She is also instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. Cindy received a BA and an MA from NYU.