Portfolio Intelligence podcast: what financial advisors need to know about the changing fee landscape
Our Head of Strategic Relationships and Investment Specialists Andy McFetridge returns to the podcast to share his insight about the changing fee landscape.
In today’s environment of investment product commoditization and fee compression, research shows that clients are increasingly turning to financial professionals for comprehensive financial planning. While that’s a service that adds true value to your client relationships, it can present challenges for traditional fee models. Successful financial professionals are responding with innovative approaches and Andy outlines what services clients are really looking for and how can advisors help meet that need. He also discusses the best way to build a process around offering financial planning services and other fee models to be aware of. Finally, Andy shares four key takeaways from his research of fee models for financial professionals.
“It's really important for advisors to recognize the preferences for how people pay fees, especially the younger generations. It's just evolved. Perhaps there's a need for a secondary fee model to accommodate this population of investors, especially since they'll be the ones who are going to be inheriting this huge generational wealth transfer.”—Andy McFetridge, Head of Strategic Relationships and Investment Specialists, John Hancock Investment Management
About the Portfolio Intelligence podcast
The Portfolio Intelligence podcast features interviews with asset allocation experts, portfolio construction specialists, and investment veterans from across John Hancock’s multimanager network. Hosted by John P. Bryson, head of investment consulting at John Hancock Investment Management, the dynamic discussion explores ideas advisors can use today to build their business while helping their clients pursue better investment outcomes.
Read the transcript
Hello, and welcome to the Portfolio Intelligence podcast. I'm your host, John Bryson, head of investment consulting and education savings at John Hancock Investment Management. On this podcast, we talk a lot about financial markets, the economy, how to position portfolios accordingly, the value of professional management and professional advice, but we don't spend a lot of time discussing fees, specifically the fees that advisors charge for advice.
Today, September 8, 2022, we want to tackle that topic, specifically about how the landscape is changing and what you as an advisor need to consider. To tackle this topic, I've invited Andy McFetridge, head of strategic relationships and investment specialists at John Hancock Investment Management. Andy started his career at John Hancock in 1994, and over the last 26 years has held various sales roles and helped thousands of investment professionals enhance their practice. Andy, welcome to the podcast.
Hey, John, thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be back with you.
Excellent. You've been having a lot of conversations with financial advisors around the changing fee landscape. Why are you having that conversation, and why now?
Well, I guess to start with, big picture here, I want to talk about the $84 trillion that's really going to be changing hands over the next 25 years. Most of your listener base has already heard about this huge intergenerational wealth transfer that we're going to see in this country over the next 25 years, but it was always discussed in terms of, hey, this is out on the horizon. It's something that will happen.
John, we're actually in this now, today, and according to some research, $30 trillion out of that $84 trillion, it's supposed to go to my generation, Gen X. $28 trillion is going to go to the millennials. $12 trillion will go to Gen Z and younger, and then another $11 trillion is going to go to charities. We just believe that all advisors need to ask themselves whether or not their practice is best positioned to benefit from this money-in-motion opportunity.
We really believe one of the critical factors that advisors will need to address to capitalize on this opportunity is their own fee structure. One thing we do know for sure is that the landscape around fees is definitely changing, and the pace of that change, John, it's actually accelerating. What I mean by that is according to some research, high-net-worth preferences for paying for services, in general, is actually evolving.
Think about, for a minute, Amazon Prime, think about Spotify, Netflix, and how we pay for those services via typically a monthly subscription. Believe it or not, especially with the younger generation, John, they're going to ultimately inherit the bulk of this wealth, these younger generations that I just mentioned, and their preferences for how they pay for services is really moving towards that subscription model; it’s the way they think, and it's what they feel most comfortable with.
Today, that's not, as you know I think, exactly how advisors in the United States are pricing their services in our industry. So far and away, the fee model of choice for most advisors is the AUM fee model. What this is, it's a bit of a wake-up call for advisors. They're sort of looking around and saying, does my model fit the preferences for these younger generation investors that potentially could be inheriting all this wealth? That's why we're having this conversation today.
Okay. If there's this disconnect between how most advisors are pricing it today and how the next generation wants things priced, what do we do? What does an advisor do right now? Do they have to change everything, or is there a better plan out there?
That's a good question. I think the first thing I should say is I'm not so sure there's a complete disconnect. Okay.
What I would say though is it's really, really important for advisors to recognize the preferences for how people pay fees, especially the younger generations as I mentioned. It's just evolved. Perhaps there's a need for a secondary fee model to accommodate this population of investors, especially since they'll be the ones, again, who are going to be inheriting this huge generational wealth transfer.
But there's some really good news here that I want to share with your listeners, and it's some excellent research that basically points to the fact that ultra-high-net-worth investors that are essentially between the ages of 40 and 60, they are overwhelmingly willing to pay extra for the value-add services—over and above investment management now—that advisors provide. If you think about it, this research, in my opinion, it sort of counters the belief that fees in our industry will continue to go down. That's all we hear, right? It's really actually not the case, especially with value-add services. If you think about it, that saying, I've used this before with you: “Fees only become an issue in the absence of value.” It's absolutely true now more than ever, in my opinion.
Yeah. I would say with the market volatility we talk about a lot, that extra above-and-beyond service that advisors are providing is critical. What services above and beyond are clients really looking for and how can advisors help meet that need?
Yeah, another good question. I would say things like services like inheritance management, financial advice at critical life stages, really robust retirement planning services, financial planning services, trust and estate planning, tax planning, of course. But I'll even throw another one out at you: Some research that we cite suggests that even premium lifestyle services, John, so think about high-net-worth individuals, families. What are the things that interest them? You think about art, think about wine, collectibles in general, like luxury cars and yachts, planes. Those types of things are also all in play here, so it's really, really interesting.
Yeah. It's funny because we talk a lot about meeting customer needs and customizing it to that customer and the conversations that my team has. You're saying the same thing. The advisors need to really understand and customize their approach to their ultra-high net worth and their clients to fit what they're looking for.
Yeah. I mean, we're in an era of customization and personalization. It's not one size fits all anymore.
Yeah, totally makes sense. All right. If I'm an advisor and I'm bought in, where do I start? I'm already offering some services, but how do I get better?
Yeah. Well, a couple thoughts here. First of all, I'd say the first step that I would suggest is to consider making financial planning a cornerstone of the value-add services you deliver to your clients. Again, after all, asset management continues to be viewed as more of a commodity these days. Those fees are coming down more and more. As I mentioned, again, people are willing to pay for that value-add service that you can ultimately deliver as an advisor.
Okay. So, then the second step after that is I'd suggest to make sure you have a really good financial planning software program available to develop these financial plans, and there's some big ones out there. Everyone has heard of MoneyGuide Pro and eMoney and even RightCapital to name a few, but there are many other versions, both nonproprietary and proprietary ones. So, if you're an advisor and you're thinking, hey, where should I start? I would actually work with your home office, your firm's home office, and just first check, hey, do we have any proprietary financial planning software that is available to us? If not, I've mentioned some big ones that you can certainly look up online.
And then the last thing I'd suggest is when you think about your pricing model, it can be really helpful to think about financial planning as an actual product. Okay. Now, just follow along here with me for just a minute. Ask yourself, so if financial planning is a product, what does this product look like to my clients? Do I have more than one product on the shelf that I would offer my clients, or do I provide sort of a one size fits all like we just talked about where everyone gets the same plan? And I say all this because these are really, really important questions to answer because deciding on the depth of your financial planning offering or offerings, it's really key to getting your pricing and your value equation right.
Makes a lot of sense. I think through how it's evolved and—you and I grew up in the industry where we moved from tickets in brokerage into fee base and charging a certain percentage—walk us forward. What other models are emerging that you're seeing that people should be aware of?
Yeah, happy to. Well, I think your listener base, this isn't going to be a surprise for them. The most dominant fee model in the industry in the United States is that assets under management model. Research shows us that about 73% of advisors say that that is their primary fee model.
But with that said, there are other fee models that are actually starting to gain some attention and some traction. And so, it's models like a flat monthly or even a quarterly fee, that would be one. Another model is charging an hourly fee, just a flat-out hourly fee for the effort that you put in, the work you're doing. And then, of course, I already mentioned that subscription model, and that's typically done via a monthly charge, just like anybody would pay for Amazon Prime or Spotify or Netflix or anything else like that. But I will say this: It's important to realize there's no correct fee model out there.
What we're really starting to see is the emergence of a primary fee model that advisors use and, again, I'll say oftentimes that will be the assets under management model. But, there's this shift to offering a secondary model, like a subscription model, for example, that the advisor can use with clients that aren't inclined to want to work with that AUM model and/or they just don't have the asset base that makes sense to charge an assets under management model fee, but they could, down the road, be significant sources of revenue for the advisors’ firm over time.
It's sort of creating that middle ground model for those folks that will be inheriting all this intergenerational wealth transfer over the years and building this model that's sort of like a middle ground where they can transition over time over to the primary model if that is the most suitable option for the client, for the advisor. That's basically what we're seeing from a model fee standpoint.
Excellent. So then if I'm on board and I recognize, hey, I've got to customize more and offer more options for my clients, but I want to do it in a systematic way, what's the best way for me to build a process around offering financial planning services?
What I'll do is I'll just give you some quick facts that I think your listeners might find to be helpful. And I say that because what we find is a lot of advisors, they want to know where their practice stands relative to everybody else's. So hopefully this will help them benchmark themselves relative to other advisors.
Question number one would be this: How many meetings should I expect with a client or prospect to complete a financial plan A to Z? Okay. The research tells us, John, that most advisors take about three to four meetings on average to complete and deliver a financial plan. Question number two: How many hours does it take to complete the financial plan? Well, the research tells us that most advisors take on average about 10 hours to complete a financial plan, but the range of that time, it varies widely, depending upon, obviously, the sophistication of the client, the client needs. That range can go anywhere from 2 to 40 hours, so it's a pretty wide range.
And then the next question that I would ask is what should I charge for a plan? If I should charge for one, how much should I even charge? Well, the research here tells us that about 51% of advisors actually do charge for a financial plan that they build for their clients and prospects and 49% don't. So, it's sort of like a coin toss, John. It's split pretty evenly.
Now, if you're going to charge for a financial plan, the average fee charge back in 2020, and this is the latest data that we have, was almost $2,500 for a plan. Okay. Now, this is really interesting, John, it's actually gone up fairly significantly over the average that advisors charged back in 2015, which was $1,700. And so, if you think about it, that equates to about a 9.28% annual increase in that fee that advisors were charging. I would say that that just reinforces what I said earlier about investors willing to pay for additional value-add services.
Well, it's interesting as we think through the evolution, and I can see it evolving, if we think back to our lives in 2015, they weren't as complex as they are now. So paying more for better service, more complex financial plan makes a lot of sense to me. Andy, there's a lot of different ways we can go with this conversation, but highlight for me the key learnings. If you wanted somebody to walk away with the key things that you've learned in this research and in the conversations you're having, what would you share with people?
I'll give you four takeaways. One, we've already mentioned this, of course, the intergenerational wealth transfer. It's not on the horizon, it's here, it's happening, and it just creates a huge opportunity for advisors with a money-in-motion scenario, but you've got to position yourself to take advantage of that. Number two would be high net worth in younger generations have evolving perceptions and preferences around fees that they pay their wealth managers. We need to recognize that, that things are changing, and, again, I said this earlier, the pace of change is actually accelerating.
Then thirdly, I'd say investors definitely see the benefit of value-add services, and they're willing to pay their advisor extra for those services, and I’d say especially for financial planning services. And then the last thing I'll just mention is just, given all of this velocity of change, it's just imperative for advisors to think about this opportunity, not a challenge, an opportunity in more flexible ways with your pricing model. I'm not suggesting change your pricing model. What I am suggesting is think about ways that you can be more flexible. Perhaps you have a primary fee model. Perhaps you need a second and perhaps maybe even a third model depending upon the situation that you're working with given the client situation.
Yeah. I think having those options are really compelling. Whenever I have a conversation like this, I think back to, somebody shared with me, hey, 10 years ago, I wouldn't buy shoes online. I have to go buy them in a store. Now, what do we do? We buy our shoes online, we buy clothes online. You have to evolve with the marketplace, or at least know what you're up against and if you're going to offer something different, have an explanation as to why you're having a different approach, but I think evolving is critical. Andy, John Hancock always offers a lot of resources around this stuff. How can our audience dig in more to think it through?
Yeah, well, I'm excited to share with your listeners that we actually have a really comprehensive guide on our website, and the guide is called The Guide to Financial Planning Fees and Fee Models, and it's really a very robust offering, and it details deep research, that I've referenced here, behind the guide and the presentation that we've actually built for advisors. It also offers actual case studies, John, and an implementation plan, and it's actually fillable, so your listeners can actually jot down as they're going through the guide, they can jot down their thoughts, their ideas, real-time as they're reviewing it.
Then there's an opportunity for advisors to detail their desired pricing structure once they've put some thought there. Think about how they're going to roll that out to clients, and even sample scripts that we offer up in the guide that the advisors can leverage to introduce the new pricing models to clients. And then the last thing I'll just mention is there's even a section to help advisors address objections that they might potentially get from their clients, especially existing clients who've been working with the advisors for some time and they're now being introduced to this new fee model. And, of course, everything is done electronically, and it even provides an opportunity to suggest next steps for advisors so that they can build a plan and commit to it.
That's great to hear. Folks, as I said at the beginning, we generally talk about financial markets and the economy and investments and how to position portfolios, but we're always striving to help advisors build a better practice and that's what this conversation was all about. If you want to learn more, please visit our website, jhinvestments.com. We've got tons of resources to help you grow your business. And if you want to subscribe to Portfolio Intelligence, we'd love to have you. You can subscribe on iTunes, you can visit our website, or go wherever you subscribe to podcasts. Thanks so much. As always, everybody, for listening to the show. Have a great day.
This podcast is being brought to you by John Hancock Investment Management Distributors LLC, member FINRA, SIPC. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speaker, are subject to change as market and other conditions warrant, and do not constitute investment advice or a recommendation regarding any specific product or security. There is no guarantee that any investment strategy discussed will be successful or achieve any particular level of results. Any economic or market performance information is historical and is not indicative of future results, and no forecasts are guaranteed. Investing involves risks, including the potential loss of principal. Diversification does not guarantee a profit or eliminate the risk of a loss.
Research referenced during the podcast: “Kitces Report: How Actual Financial Planners Do Financial Planning (2020), Kitces Report, 2020; “Bob Veres Inside Information: 2020 Fee Survey,” aicpa.org, June 2020; “State of Financial Planning and Fees: The Bigger Picture,” Envestnet and MoneyGuide Pro, September 2020; and “Purpose Consulting Group Fee Study ,” July 202