RIAs Focus on Practice Management in 2010

Now that the storm has subsided, independent advisers are putting more focus on their business, such as marketing and technology, according to a survey by TD AMERITRADE Institutional.

The quarterly survey of registered investment advisers (RIAs), published in the paper “Preparing for Growth in the new Era of Delivering Financial Advice,” found that marketing has received the most increased spending from surveyed advisers in December (64%). That area is up from 53% in September (see “Independent Advisers Feel Good about Future“). Technology was the next biggest area of investment (61%).

The increased focus on marketing makes sense, as the most important practice management goal for surveyed advisers is to grow their business (68%).

Travel budgets seem to also be coming back for some RIAs, with 29% of advisers reporting increased spending in this area (up from 15% in September). On the other hand, even more surveyed advisers (46%) are cutting back on travel.

RIAs also continue to tighten costs in other areas, such as salaries and bonuses (48%) and client appreciation activities or entertainment (47%). Close to one-fourth (25%) decreased spending for employee benefits and 22% decreased spending in staffing.

RIAs said new client assets are coming even more from wirehouses (35%, up from 26% in September) and broker/dealers (30%, up from 24% in September).

Advisers reported that they are doing some things differently as a result of the economic recession (only 10% said “nothing”). In order to protect clients from future downturns, more than half are proactively contacting clients more often (52%) and allocating more assets to fixed-income or cash (51%).

RIAs continue to be concerned about how the current economic climate will affect their practices in 2010. Adviser concern over regulatory changes is now the number one concern (47%), jumping from 9% in September. RIAs also reported concern about the macro-economic environment (34%, up from 24%), profitability (33%, up from 5%), and managing risk (legal and compliance issues) (29%, up from 18%).

On behalf of TD AMERITRADE Institutional, Maritz conducted the survey among 507 RIAs.