30 Nov Client approach in financial services: Wide or specialized?
Should financial advisors aim for a wide range of clients, or does it make more sense to specialize in a particular niche? The debate on financial advisors’ approach to clients is an ongoing one. Recent studies suggest that adopting a specialized approach can be highly beneficial.
Traditionally, advisors have favored a generalist approach, aiming to appeal to a broad client base. The idea behind this is to keep as many doors open, maximizing reach. However, niche specialization is gaining traction. This approach involves identifying a unique customer niche and focusing all efforts on developing a high-quality client base within that specific demographic.
While it may seem counterintuitive to exclude clients who don’t align with the chosen niche, this approach can bring significant benefits to financial planners and portfolio managers. Studies by Kitces Research strongly suggest that specializing in a single demographic segment can offer substantial advantages to most advisors. One critical aspect of this specialization is the ability to differentiate oneself in a competitive market.
To niche or not to niche: Is that even a question?
Choosing between a generalist or niche approach in financial advisory is crucial. Generalization can broaden the advisor’s client base, while specialization can deepen expertise and offer more focused opportunities.
This decision should align with the advisor’s professional goals, strengths, and the unique demands of their target market. By carefully considering a strategic approach, advisors can make informed choices that enhance their effectiveness.
Niche specialization results in more personalized investment advice and services. It acknowledges that not all aspects of financial planning are universally applicable to every niche.
Kitces Research underscores that niche-focused advisors also tend to serve, on average, 14% more clients, thanks to the enhanced scalability of their specialization. Time management also sees a significant improvement, with a 13% reduction in time spent on middle-office and back-office tasks. This allows advisors to focus on what truly matters – serving their clients effectively. This translates into a 28% increase in annual hours devoted to high-value client-oriented activities.
One key takeaway is that clients of specialized wealth management advisors tend to have 25% more investable assets and a higher average net worth, again according to Kitces Research. This not only enhances the advisor’s ability to provide value but also opens the door to greater revenue potential. Advisors specializing in niches are in a position to charge higher fees, with asset-under-management (AUM) fees that are 9% higher and a significant 20% increase in standalone planning fees.
Ultimately, niche specialization results in a substantial boost in revenue. The findings by Kitces reveal that these specialized advisors achieve an average income of $660,000. This stands in stark contrast to non-niche advisors in the same income percentile, who earn an average of $395,000.
The value of exceptional clients
Some investment advisors may be apprehensive about narrowing their client base or dismissing certain clients, fearing that selectivity may not be worthwhile in the long run. While such concerns are valid, data suggests that today’s most successful advisory firms overwhelmingly emphasize quality over quantity, especially those catering to high-net-worth investors.
Structuring a business around a specific niche increases the appeal of its services because they are explicitly tailored to the unique needs of that niche. When dealing with investment portfolios and asset allocation, specialization shines since it enables advisors to create finely-tuned strategies that align with the risk tolerance and financial goals of their niche clients. These clients, in turn, benefit from a higher level of engagement and dedication to their unique financial journeys.
Managing the investments of individuals within a niche also opens the door to valuable word-of-mouth referrals within their professional circles, which can significantly benefit investment firms and money managers at large.
Last but certainly not least, it’s essential to highlight that targeting fewer high-quality clients allows advisors to foster stronger, more client-centric relationships with their investors. This, in turn, enhances client trust and the overall customer experience, ultimately benefiting the advisor and the client.
Who and how to target?
Niche specialization means focusing on a specific population segment and tailoring the firm’s investment services to their needs. Therefore, advisors must first select a niche that suits them and has business potential. Reading the article Top 4: The most promising investor segments is a good starting point.
Advisors then need to implement their segmentation strategy. Follow the 5 steps to investor segmentation to grow your client base. Once this is done, you will need to attract clients in the most effective way possible and market your investment products and services to this client base.
Creating a client “prototype” that paints a detailed picture of your ideal client makes it easier. The prototype should include factors like age, occupation, and personal finances. But you should also look at less obvious details such as key stressors, and where your prototype is likely to discover services.
For example, if a company’s niche is young engineering graduates, it might create a prototype customer, like “Michael.” Michael is between 25 and 35, works as a chemical engineer, lives in Toronto, and earns an annual income of around $150,000. He faces constant time pressures at work and is an active consumer of social media, where he is most likely to discover the firm’s services. Michael represents the precise niche client that the firm aims to reach.
Financial advisors who specialize in niche market segments often gain a deeper understanding of their clients’ unique financial situations and needs, such as estate planning and life insurance. This allows them to offer personalized solutions that address the specific challenges their clients face.
By putting themselves in their clients’ shoes, marketers can tailor their services to attract similar clients. Advisors can assess how closely potential clients match a particular prototype, such as Michael, to determine if they are a good fit for their firm.
While this highly targeted marketing approach requires patience and careful planning, it can help investment management firms to effectively target and serve the niche market they aim to cater to.