Following top practices for firm performance, technology, compliance and administrative support result in the highest levels of satisfaction, not compensation, for financial advisers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Financial Advisor Satisfaction Study.

The study examines the satisfaction for adviseos employed by investment services firm as well as independent advisers. For advisers employed at firms, the study looks at nine drivers of satisfaction: firm performance, compensation, contact, people, job duties, work environment, products and offerings to clients, technology, and services and support offered to financial advisers. The study also measures eight drivers for independent adviser satisfaction: firm performance, contact, people, job duties, compensation, technology, products and offerings to clients, and services and support offered to financial advisers.

“Providing the right mix of technology and support to advisors, thus optimizing the time they spend with clients, has the biggest impact on satisfaction,” says David Lo, director of investment services at J.D. Power and Associates. “It’s no coincidence that the firms struggling with the key best practices identified in the study are also paying the highest retention and signing bonuses to compensate for a poorer work experience.”

According to the study, firm performance remains the most important factor that drives satisfaction among employee and independent advisors. This satisfaction is centered on advisors’ perceptions of their firms, including supportive senior management, the firm having a defined set of priorities and objectives, and the firm acting in the best interest of clients.  

“Ultimately, financial advisors want to work with a firm whose actions are in the best interest of clients,” Lo says. “Firms that stray from this fundamental principle diminish the connection with their advisors and eventually damage the overall culture of the firm.”

Lo says the most common disconnects with senior management are promoting noninvestment products and services along with keeping advisors from client-facing work because of disproportionate administrative burdens.

Best practices related to compliance as well as administrative and technology support also have a large impact on advisors’ perceptions of their firms, which include technology and software solutions aligned and integrated with workflow processes and quickly and efficiently resolving compliance issues.