Clients Have Strong Grip on Advisers' Time

A new study from the Financial Planning Association's (FPA) Research and Practice Institute finds financial advisers are not completely in control of their time and business operations.

FPA’s 2014 Time Management and Productivity Study takes a deep dive into a variety of issues impacting today’s financial advisers, based on a survey of 750 financial advice professionals across the U.S. representing all prevalent channels and a wide range of business sizes and models. The research suggests many advisory firms would benefit from better process standardization and more effective long-term planning and task delegation.

“This study probed further into the time management issue and exposed the unfortunate snowball effect poor time management has on … all advisers,” explains Lauren Schadle, executive director and chief executive officer of FPA.

Schadle says the research reveals only a small minority of advisers report feeling like they are in complete control of their time (13%) or their business as a whole (10%). Interestingly, those advisers who say they feel somewhat or completely in control of their time and their business are holding approximately 50 more client meetings per year on average—suggesting the time-crunch experienced by many advisers may be at least in part self-inflicted.

“Obviously if only 13% of advisers feel they have complete control over their time there are going to be far reaching ramifications on their businesses and their overall stress level,” says Valerie Porter, director of the FPA Research and Practice Institute.

The study identifies a list of obstacles that advisers say prevent better productivity and business control, which include trying to do too much for clients (36%); increased administrative burden from new clients or regulations (31%); and procrastination (30%).

FPA says effective time management and productivity starts with a clear vision. Those advisers surveyed who reported having specific, defined business and personal goals were more likely to report high levels of business control. More importantly, the quality of the plans is different for those advisers who say they are in control. Eighty-four percent of those teams who are in control rate their plan as effective, compared with 44% who are not in control.

In addition to having a clear vision, FPA says advisers who had strong infrastructures in place relating to staffing, business processes and technology were more likely to be in control. Fifty-one percent of advisers indicated that having clearly defined and standardized processes is the best way to improve efficiency, followed by better task delegation (47%) and better scheduling (38%). Advisers who were in control were more likely to delegate a wider range of activities.

With respect to personal productivity, FPA says advisers who are in control are more likely to follow a model day or week and schedule more of their recurring activities. Forty-four percent of teams who are in control have a set schedule compared with 20% who are not in control.

Those advisers who are in control are also more likely to have used tools such as a time tracker (42% of teams who are in control compared with 28% who are not) and are less likely to deviate from their schedules.

The full report is available here.