Recently, Bernhardt Wealth Management (BWM) had a unique opportunity. We took part in one of the largest surveys of clients ever conducted by the financial advising industry. One of our strategic relationships, Dimensional Fund Advisors, surveyed almost 19,000 individual investors nationwide. The purpose of this study was to provide benchmarks to help us better understand our clients’ needs and what our clients most desire in their relationship with us.
The survey gave us an opportunity to not only obtain insight into our clients and their perceptions of our work with them, but also to be able to compare our results with thousands of other investors all over the country. This was incredibly valuable to us at BWM. Just as we need to know as much as we can about each individual client’s goals, needs, concerns, and preferences in order to provide the best possible advice and financial planning, it is also vital for us to see how our clients’ perceptions stack up against those of other investors. This “report card” from our clients then enables us to refine our services, our communications, and everything else we do on behalf of those we serve.
So, if you were one of the many clients who completed the survey, we give you our most sincere thanks. You have paid us the supreme compliment of really telling us what you think. In this letter, we’d like to share a few highlights of the survey results, along with our reflections on what these results might suggest for future initiatives and strategies at BWM.
Would You Recommend Bernhardt Wealth Management to Your Friends?
One overwhelming piece of information revealed by the survey is that 99 percent of our clients who responded affirmed that they would recommend BWM to their friends, family members, or colleagues. We are both delighted and humbled by this response.
In comparison, a 2016 study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, comprising more than 1,000 high net worth individuals in Europe, North America, and Asia, found that only 39 percent of persons with investable assets of $1 million or more were likely to recommend their advisor to others. So, when our clients indicate at a nearly 100 percent rate that they would refer us and our services to their friends, we feel deeply grateful for such a level of confidence.
Such a result deepens our commitment to continue to “do things right” for our clients. We know that confidence must be earned and that it must also be maintained. Rather than sit back on our laurels, we at BWM take this survey result as both a validation of what we have done and a challenge for what we need to continue to do with every client, every day.
What Is Most Important in Your Advisor Relationship?
Given the high level of confidence indicated by our clients, the next logical question to consider is what our clients consider most important in their relationship with us. Whatever that is, we want to make sure that we continue to deliver on it and focus all possible efforts on improving our value in the indicated areas. So, we were very interested to see that the largest response of our clients to the statement “Choose the attribute you consider most important in your advisor relationship” was “investment returns;” 35 percent of our clients gave this response, compared with 32 percent of the total respondents. The next-largest response was “client service experience,” chosen by 32 percent of our clients, and 31 percent of the total group. The third most popular response was “experience with clients like me,” at 26 percent for our clients, at an equal rate with respondents nationwide. Responses to other priorities–“fees and expenses,” “range of services,” “team size,” and “advisor age”–were all in the single digits.
The strong message here is that if BWM wishes to continue to enjoy the confidence of our clients, we need to continue to focus on the basics: prudently allocating our clients’ assets, and providing excellent service that is tailored to individual clients’ situations.
How Do You Measure the Value We Provide?
The final point we will consider in this letter is by what criteria our clients measure the value BWM brings to the advising relationship. In response to the question, “How do you primarily measure the value received from your advisor?” a strong plurality of our clients–40 percent–responded, “sense of security; peace of mind.” This compares with the overall rate of 35 percent of respondents who made the same selection. The second highest response from our clients was “progress toward my goals” (22 percent), and the third highest was “investment returns” (16 percent).
We interpret these results to indicate that one of the principal benefits we provide to our clients is the security that comes with knowing we are mindful of each investor’s objectives and needs. In other words, we believe that our principal value is in the quality of our relationships with our clients. If we are doing our job well–listening carefully to our clients; communicating clearly; fully explaining the options, opportunities, risks, and rewards; and above all, putting our clients’ best interest first–we believe that the result is a feeling of security on the part of our clients, realizing that we are working diligently on their behalf at all times. That feeling of security and confidence is our ultimate goal. We desire, above all, that our clients rest easy, safe in the knowledge that we are watching out for them.
In future communications, we will explore some additional information from the survey and some technology and reporting enhancements you will see. But for now, we want to close this letter with one more word of sincere thanks, not only to our clients who participated in the survey, but to all those who continue to place their trust in Bernhardt Wealth Management. We take that trust very seriously, and we come to work every day with the chief goal of continuing to earn it.