Nearly three-fourths (72%) of financial advisors surveyed by MetLife in its new Lessons Learned Advisor Poll say the recent financial crisis has made their Boomer clients more risk-averse, and 70% say interest among clients in guaranteed products has increased.
Advisors across industry segments also reported that the crisis has provided an opportunity to work more closely with clients, with two-thirds of those advisors polled saying the ultimate impact on their practices has been positive.
MetLife also drew on findings from its earlier Lessons Learned Consumer Poll, conducted in the fall of last year, to discern alignment and any discrepancies between Boomers and advisors on retirement issues. In a key area — portfolio protection — there was relatively close alignment: two thirds (65%) of Baby Boomers with $250,000 or more of investable assets surveyed in the Lessons Learned Consumer Poll last fall agreed that protecting assets against market losses took precedence over participating in market gains, while a very robust 83% of advisors surveyed in the new Advisor poll endorsed that statement.
Some Discrepancies The two polls also showed some meaningful discrepancies: For example, while half (49%) of more affluent Boomers were taking some general steps in reaction to the financial crisis such as cutting back on non-essential spending, only 28% reported undertaking portfolio diversification, a measure that three-fourths of advisors (74%) were recommending to help buffer portfolios against another crisis. And while 58% of advisors want clients to allocate a portion of assets to guaranteed income products, only 14% of more well-off Boomers said they were doing so.
Advisors identified the top three risks or challenges facing clients as being able to retire when they want to (65%), losing value of retirement savings (57%), and having job security (32%). Half (49%) of advisors polled believe that a full economic recovery is three to four years away, and over a third (35%) see complete recovery as taking five years or more to arrive.
Striking the Right Balance
“Financial advisors are doing their job, reaching out to clients who may waver between hope and fear as they see markets fluctuate,” said Robert E. Sollmann, Jr., executive vice president, Retirement Products, MetLife. “Many among the very large cadre of Boomers jolted by the financial crisis have moved to the sidelines when it comes to retirement investing. The strengthened relationship and intensified dialogue between advisors and clients that our new Lessons Learned Advisor Poll discloses open the door more widely for advisors to help clients with holistic planning, striking the right balance between risk and risk-aversion, protecting assets and growing them, based on individual needs and goals.”
A Changed Landscape
Some highlights from the MetLife Lessons Learned Advisor Poll of over 1,000 professionals, conducted with the Financial Planning Association in late March and early April, illustrate the changed landscape of attitudes among Boomer clients.
73% of advisors say client sensitivity to the risk profile of retirement savings products has increased;
72% of advisors say their clients’ approach to retirement savings and investments has become more conservative as a result of the crisis;
70% of advisors say their Boomer clients’ interest in financial products that provide a guaranteed stream of income has increased;
50% of advisors say discipline about saving for retirement has increased;
47% of advisors report that Boomer clients have portfolio reviews more often.
“There is a significant opportunity for financial advisors to help Boomers internalize the lessons learned from the financial crisis, especially when it comes to saving, diversification and risk tolerance,” said Julia Lennox, vice president, Retirement Products, MetLife. “Some investors and savers may have felt they were sufficiently diversified, but advisors can talk to their clients about helping to protect the retirement savings they’ve worked so hard to build, while at the same time generating guaranteed income.”
Impact of Crisis on Advisor Practices Positive
The MetLife Lessons Learned Advisor Poll revealed that the economic downturn and crisis have tightened the relationship between advisors and their clients. Overall, two-thirds of advisors believe that the financial crisis has had a positive impact on their relationships with their clients and their practice, and 66% say they spend more time proactively contacting their clients to talk about their personal financial needs and goals. More than half (55%) say they spend more time talking to their clients in-person.
While all types of practices experienced a pick-up in client contact as the crisis unfolded, there were some differences among industry segments. Independent broker-dealers report the greatest increase in calls/requests for advice from current clients (67% compared to 61% for independent wealth managers). Increases in requests for guaranteed products increased among both wirehouse advisors (71%) and insurance agents (73%), compared to just 45% of independent wealth managers. Independent wealth managers report the greatest increase in the number of new clients secured, with 62% reporting that they’ve seen an increase in new clients over the past 12 months. Half (50%) of wirehouse advisors and 43% of insurance agents say they’ve seen the same.