Looking to Branch Out? NFP Study Explores MDPs

Multidiscipline practices (MDP) offer benefits to advisers and their clients, but face some unique obstacles, according to a study by NFP Advisor Services Group.

Investors whose advisers delivered comprehensive wealth managementincluding investment management, financial planning and at least one insurance productreported higher satisfaction levels than those who work with advisers through a narrower, single-product or single-service engagement, according to NFP’s research.

For the purposes of this research, MDPs are defined as practices deriving at least 10% to 15% of revenues from each of the following: insurance, investments, benefits and fee-based financial planning services.

“Multidiscipline Practices: The Business Model of the Future,” commissioned by NFP Advisor Services Group and produced by the independent research firm Aite Group, reveals that there are a number of benefits to an MDP practice, but the staffing and operational requirements can be complex.

MDPs attract affluent clients with complex financial needs. Investors surveyed who leverage MDPs to meet multiple financial needs are more likely to be business owners and have higher investable asset levels.

“As demand from clients and business owners drives a shift in the industry toward a more comprehensive approach to wealth management, the study finds that the most successful financial advisers are proactively evolving their practices to meet this demand,” said James Poer, president of NFP Advisor Services Group. “MDPs, with their diverse product offerings, are uniquely positioned to thrive in this environment given their ability to meet the high expectations of clients seeking holistic financial guidance.”



MDPs experience higher client growth during challenging market environments: In 2011, MDPs surveyed reported a 10% median growth in net clients while other practice types reported median growth rates ranging from 5% to 6%.

MDPs receive more referrals from and generate more new revenue through professional partnerships:Just under half of MDPs surveyed derive one-quarter or more of their 2011 revenue from internal partner referrals while less than one-third of other practice types derive as much of their revenue from partner referrals.

The most successful MDPs, based on revenue per client, have teams with wide-ranging expertise. They distinguish themselves from less successful practices with their larger staff, greater focus on high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients, and diligent implementation of comprehensive financial planning services. Smaller firms with less diverse practices need to find a way to fill the gap as they grow.

MDPs face unique staffing, sales and operational challenges that they must overcome in order to achieve success. Practices must find the right balance of solution experts, generalists and support staff to carry out their vision of catering to their clients' complete financial needs in the most productive and profitable manner.

There is limited access to integrated technology solutions that can support more than one wealth management area.Effective management of operating costs and enhanced adviser productivity are critical to profitability.

According to Poer, advisers can best navigate the complexities of an MDP practice by affiliating with a wealth management firm that specializes in supporting MDPs and has a history of doing so successfully.  “Advisers should consider the need for integrated technology across multiple product lines and the ability to leverage home office expertise to further enhance the range of products and services offered in their practices,” he said. “The end result of an effectively run MDP is more satisfied clients, who generate more consistent referrals, higher retention rates and ultimately, a more valuable practice.”

Access a copy of the study at www.nfpasg.com/multidiscipline.