Financial Advisers Can Build On Strong Base of Trust

A new study by Spectrem Group highlights increased trust of financial advisers among wealthy investors, and it offers guidance on how advisers can enhance their relationships with clients.

Affluent investors place more trust in their financial advisers than they do in their lawyers and accountants, according to a new study by the Spectrem Group. 

Even though the level of trust placed in advisers remains lower than it stood before the Great Recession, the survey indicates improved satisfaction with advisers, as some investors are ranking them as high as their primary care physicians in terms of trust.

The report, “Advisor Relationships and Changing Advice Requirements,” outlines how trust is a crucial factor in determining how investors choose and work with financial advisers. It also highlights ways in which advisers can enhance their relationships with clients. The study focused on mass affluent investors with a net worth between $100,000 and $1 million (not including primary residence), the millionaire investor with a net worth between $1 million and $5 million, and the ultra high net-worth (UHNW) investor, with a net worth between $5 million and $25 million.

“Affluent investors often carry the burden of sustaining and building their family’s wealth, sometimes for generations, which is why it is critical that their relationship with an adviser be built on long-term trust,” says Spectrem Group President George H. Walper Jr. “Because their hard-earned money is at stake, that trust will literally have to be earned, and frequent and proactive communication by advisers is key to nurturing an enduring relationship built on trust.”

Lack of communication and proactivity were cited as the biggest driving factors in terminating relationships with advisers. Sixty-one percent of mass affluent investors said that an adviser’s failure to return phone calls in a timely manner will cause them to end their relationships. Sixty-three percent of millionaires and 71% of UHNW investors said the same.

Preferences regarding communication varied among wealth classes. The study found that 45% of mass affluent investors want their adviser to initiate contact with them on a quarterly basis. Nineteen percent would prefer that this happen monthly. Thirty-five percent of UHNW investors expect their adviser to return phone calls within two hours, and nearly 68% consider a returned call the next day unacceptable.

Trust is also a major factor in determining who investors choose to work with. The study found most investors initiate relationships with advisers following referrals from other people they trust. Fifty-one percent of mass affluent investors, 47% of millionaire investors, and 53% of UHNW investors are initially introduced to an adviser through the referral by a family member or friend.

However, nearly six in 10 Millionaires and almost half of UHNW investors believe their advisers are biased toward certain groups of products, and are more interested in pushing those products than they are in offering advice that will benefit them for the long term.

Additional insights on the three wealth segments examined in the report, as well as information about other Spectrem studies, are available at