Study Gauges FAs’ Thought Leadership Preferences

Thought leadership, especially when focused on how to increase client satisfaction or generate retirement income, is a “big differentiator” when it comes to developing targeted and successful communication strategies directed at financial advisors (FAs), according to a new study.

Other key differentiators include advanced portfolio construction and risk and modeling tools, according to the Cogent Reports™ study by Market Strategies International, which offers best practices for asset managers and distributors to benchmark and strengthen their FA marketing efforts.

The report explains that FAs prefer email over all other forms of communication, but since emails comprise the majority of financial provider outreach from asset managers and product manufacturers, understanding the most effective types and frequency of content is critical. “Financial advisors are inundated with marketing messages from asset managers and distributors making it crucial to understand how you can capture their attention and leave a lasting impression,” the report notes.

“We know from our recent qualitative work that advisors want more thought leadership and market commentary rather than product-specific updates,” explains Sonia Sharigian, product director at Market Strategies and author of the report. “In our latest quantitative survey, we are seeing an even stronger emphasis on thought leadership, with advisors asking providers to offer more robust and expansive thought leadership libraries online, particularly among producers with larger books of business.”

Thought Leadership Content

With respect to the most desirable thought leadership content, the findings show that topics most appealing to FAs are how to increase client satisfaction and retention rates (59%), and how to generate retirement income (55%). Also registering high among the topic categories are global market and economic outlooks (53%), advanced asset-allocation and portfolio modeling applications (52%) and managing risk in client portfolios (51%).

Some differences, however, exist by channel, AUM level and advisor tenure. Bank producers, for example, expressed stronger interest in the topics above, with the findings registering in the 60% to 70% range for each of the categories, but RIAs expressed less interest, with the findings registering in the 40% to 50% range.

Moreover, producers with lower AUM reportedly want a variety of thought leadership materials, while producers in the $500M+ range prioritize portfolio risk management and global market and economic outlooks.

Portfolio Construction, Risk and Modeling Tools

The survey also found that more advanced portfolio construction, risk and modeling tools are the highest priority for FAs in terms of their technology wish lists (ranked #1 among 18% of respondents and in the top three among 46% of respondents).

National and RIA producers are also looking for more in-depth libraries for accessing research and thought leadership, while independent and bank producers report a higher need for online training with CE credits, the findings show.

In addition, producers managing larger books reportedly are prioritizing more in-depth online research and thought leadership libraries, while producers with smaller books value self-service capabilities such as DocuSign integration and in-person training on utilizing firms’ online capabilities.

Top Thought Leadership Providers

The report includes a list of top 10 providers for thought leadership activity, by readership and by readership and sharing. According to the findings, First Trust, BlackRock, American Funds, iShares and Guggenheim Investments are the most successful in getting FAs to read their thought leadership material.

Materials produced by First Trust, J.P. Morgan and American Funds have the greatest potential of “going viral” within the industry, as FAs are most likely to share materials from these providers with colleagues or clients, according to the report.

The findings are based on an online survey of a representative cross-section of 1,078 advisors conducted from April through June 2017, with survey participants required to have an active book of business of at least $5 million and offer investment advice or planning services to individual investors on a fee or transactional basis.

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