What Do Consumers Want Most From Financial Services Firms?

“Understandability” and fee clarity tied for what consumers want most from their financial services firms, according to Hearts & Wallets’ eighth annual customer satisfaction ratings.

Based on more than 5,000 U.S. household ratings of top performers on everything from providing personal financial advice to offering online tools and research, “understandability” and clear and understandable fees were both cited by 56% of consumers nationally who said these factors are important to them for service dimension attributes.

“Wants & Pricing: Helping Customers Purchase What They Want in Saving and Investing” covers 25 attributes for five key service dimensions and three pricing dimensions, focusing on top-level national annual satisfaction ratings for the top 23 providers, leading brokers, banks and retirement platforms cited most often by their customers.

The report includes “perceptual mapping” to enable clients to match what’s important to customers to firm proficiencies. When applying the mapping to the attributes of “has made me money” vs. “has low fees,” the report notes that “consumers of all types perceive banks as less expensive than investment firms with weaker capabilities to deliver on ‘has made me money.’”

The largest increases in importance year-over-year were “explains things in understandable terms” and “well-trained staff,” which were both up four percentage points at the national level, Hearts & Wallets notes.

Meanwhile, significant shifts in consumer perception around pricing are also taking place, the report notes. For those who say they are paying to use the services of a firm, consumers cite a significant drop in paying through assets under management year over year. Investors across firms report a drop in paying by percentage of assets from 59% to 26% in one year, while one in three investor respondents now say they pay flat fees, according to the findings.

Top Performers

Hearts & Wallets explains that to earn the top performer designation, firms must receive ratings from their customers that are distinctively higher than the ratings customers of other firms gave to those firms. In addition, the ratings encompass all customer types and are weighted to national assets and age to be comparable across stores and years.

A sampling of top performers for selected attributes include:

  • Explains things in understandable terms: USAA, Edward Jones and Ameriprise Financial were found to be the top performers, with Morgan Stanley and Citibank cited as most improved.
  • Understands me and shares my values: Ameriprise, Edward Jones and USAA were cited as top performers, with Morgan Stanley and American Funds listed as most improved.
  • Has made me money: Edward Jones is a top performer, while Morgan Stanley is most improved.
  • Well-trained staff: Ameriprise, Edward Jones, Morgan Stanley, USAA and Charles Schwab were cited as top performers, with Scottrade, Citibank and Morgan Stanley listed as most improved.
  • Online tools and research: TD Ameritrade was cited as a top performer and joined PNC and Merrill Lynch as most improved.
  • Offers personal financial advice: Morgan Stanley, Ameriprise, Edward Jones and Wells Fargo Advisors were found to be top performers, with Morgan Stanley as most improved.
  • Fees are clear and understandable: Scottrade was cited as a top performer and also joins PNC and Citibank as most improved.

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