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Financial Planners at Risk for Meeting Investors’ Future Demands, New Research from FPA and SEI Reveals

October 17, 2019
clock 6 MIN READ

MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 17, 2019 – Many financial planners are not anticipating evolving client needs or adequately planning for the future, despite the technology-fueled, rapid reshaping of the financial industry. SEI (NASDAQ: SEIC) and the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) unveiled new research at yesterday’s 2019 FPA Annual Conference from “Advisory Firms in 2030: The Innovation Imperative,” a study offering insight into how the profession is – and isn’t – anticipating clients’ changing needs and innovation’s role in adapting to these changes.

"Opportunities exist, and those who can bridge the gap between automation and human connection will be among tomorrow’s winners.”

SEI, a leading global provider of investment processing, investment management, and investment operations solutions, and FPA, the principal membership association for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals and those who support the financial planning process, conducted the study. The research was designed to better understand the current and potential future state of the financial advice profession by exploring where financial planners are now and what they believe the next 10 years will bring, in order to provide actionable insights on how to position them for success.

“Emboldened investors are impacting every aspect of the industry. Many advisers and planners are at an inflection point. Our research shows they may be caught up in day-to-day tasks or facing a digital inertia, and not devoting their time and resources to future planning,” said John Anderson, managing director of practice management solutions at Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI.  “Today’s pace of change is likely as slow as it will ever be, and advisers and planners cannot afford to take a wait-and-see approach to the future”

Where does the advice profession stand today?

Key findings uncover:

  • Planners are too caught up with today to plan for tomorrow. More than half of respondents (55%) cited they have no business plans currently in place. Of those respondents, 42% keep meaning to but haven’t gotten around to it, while 18% believe a plan is unnecessary.
  • And they haven’t truly differentiated themselves or their businesses in any meaningful way. Respondents were asked to select a descriptor that best described their primary differentiator, and more than half of all respondents selected a descriptor that will likely be difficult for consumers to translate into value. Nearly a third (28%) selected “offers life planning and financial planning,” followed by “fosters personal connections” (24%).
  • Planners aren’t focused on adapting their services to meet changing client trends and preferences. Two-thirds of respondents meet with clients in their offices, compared to only 17% who report meeting at a client’s residence, and only 9% percent report meeting with clients virtually.

What does tomorrow look like?

Key findings reveal:

  • Planners are split about ease of growth in the future. When asked whether they believe future growth will be easier or harder, responses were split nearly even, with a slightly higher number (56%) expecting it will be harder. About half (48%) of respondents who think it will be easier said they will be better equipped. Those who believe it will be harder cited younger clients using hybrid advice platforms as the main reason (40%).
  • They are not anticipating the need to adapt, despite changing investor sentiment about technology. When asked how they expect the client experience and process will evolve over the next five to 10 years, less than a quarter (22%) of respondents anticipate they will have to adapt their processes in the future. However, most investor participants (80%) said they are “very comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” with digital tools. Thirty-one percent say they currently use online portals and 15% use a mobile app for smartphones; however, these digital tools are at the bottom of the list of functionalities investors would like to use if offered by their planner. Augmented or virtual reality (17%) and virtual assistance/chat bots (15%) ranked highest among the top digital tools investors would like their planners to offer in the future.  
  • Planners believe technology will be a key to success and goes hand-in-hand with innovation. One-quarter of respondents cited adoption of the best new financial technology on the market as one of their top three business goals over the next five to 10 years, and they believe that technology is the key to freeing up time to concentrate on the personal connection with clients. More than half (54%) describe innovation in the advice industry as the technology that enables them to focus on human connections. When asked about their preferred technology platform in the future, 50% of respondents said they prefer a single, integrated platform with minimal integration with outside systems.

“This research should serve as a wake-up call for all of us as financial planning professionals,” said Evelyn M. Zohlen, CFP®, president of FPA. “Too many financial planners are ignoring today’s shifting consumer demands and neglecting planning for the future at a time when these topics demand our attention. Opportunities exist, and those who can bridge the gap between automation and human connection will be among tomorrow’s winners.”

Further insight and recommended action will be explored in upcoming micro-whitepapers.


To learn what financial planners think about the next five to 10 years, FPA and SEI conducted eight in-depth, one-on-one interviews with a range of planners, who have  varying experience levels at large and small firms. FPA and SEI also conducted an online survey in August 2019 of 436 financial planners (primarily owners, managing partners and lead planners) representing a variety of experience and years in the business. Additionally, SEI, in association with Phoenix Marketing International, surveyed 686 non-self-directed investors with investable assets between $100,000 and $4,999,999 in May 2019 to learn about the digital tools they use with their planners. The FPA and Phoenix Marketing International are not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries.

About the Financial Planning Association

The Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) is the principal membership organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who are committed to elevating the profession that transforms lives through the power of financial planning. Through a collaborative effort to provide members with tools and resources for professional education, business support, advocacy and community, FPA is the indispensable resource in the advancement of today's CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional. Learn more about FPA at and follow on Twitter at

About Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI

Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI provides independent financial advisors with wealth management services through outsourced investment strategies, administration and technology services, and practice management programs. It is through these services that SEI helps advisors save time, grow revenues, and differentiate themselves in the market. With a history of financial strength, stability, and transparency, Independent Advisor Solutions has been serving the independent financial advisor market for more than 25 years, has 7,400 advisors who work with SEI, and $67.2 billion in advisors’ assets under management (as of June 30, 2019). Independent Advisor Solutions is a strategic business unit of SEI. 

About SEI

After 50 years in business, SEI (NASDAQ:SEIC) remains a leading global provider of investment processing, investment management, and investment operations solutions that help corporations, financial institutions, financial advisors, and ultra-high-net-worth families create and manage wealth. As of June 30, 2019, through its subsidiaries and partnerships in which the company has a significant interest, SEI manages, advises or administers $970 billion in hedge, private equity, mutual fund and pooled or separately managed assets, including $335 billion in assets under management and $630 billion in client assets under administration. 

Leslie A.  Wojcik

Head of Global Communications


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