In the latest Schwab Independent Advisor Outlook study, a growing number of financial advisors report feeling compelled to do more for clients, without being able to increase their fees to pay for it. A whopping 44% of advisors state they have already begun to provide more services to clients without charging for them, and 40% of advisors are spending more time on each client without increasing fees. Notably, the study does not find that advisors are cutting their fees to compete with robo-advisors and the like; instead, advisory firms are responding to competitive pressures by trying to do more to justify their existing fees in the first place (at the risk of compromising their profit margins over time).
In fact, the pressure to do more and offer a wider range of services for clients was the dominant theme of the study’s future outlook as well, as advisors themselves are increasingly suggesting that the key to differentiation in the future – especially as DoL fiduciary forces more and more competitors into the AUM model – will be offering clients a broader range of services beyond just the portfolio, from tax planning, to philanthropic advice, and health-care planning. In the meantime, as the DoL fiduciary standard itself becomes universal, only 20% of the RIAs in Schwab’s study stated that they anticipate trying to differentiate through a commitment to more stringent standards for advice. Nonetheless, 79% of advisors reported feeling confident about the future of the industry, and expect more opportunities in the next 10 years, particularly as financial planning itself continues to mature.