Holistic planning: who demands it, and what do they want?

As clients demand that the financial planning process encompass more issues, advisors said they expect to discuss all topics under the “holistic” umbrella more frequently over the next five years. (See chart below.) But they said they expect the largest increase in conversations to be around health care and physical well-being. Most advisors also said they expect a meaningful uptick in conversations about their clients’ financial situations – which are inevitably affected by all the new issues advisors are planning for – and about clients’ ability to live independently and their emotional and mental well-being.

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Female Clients Want Broader Conversations, and Female Advisors Are Discussing Those Topics More Often

Our research uncovered differences in how often advisors discuss various holistic planning issues with male and female clients. Perhaps more important for the industry, the research also suggests that female advisors are engaging female clients about these issues more often than male advisors are. For every topic advisors were asked about, survey participants noted that conversations were increasing more with female clients than with male clients. The differences were most pronounced in three areas: the client’s emotional well-being, financial situation and physical well-being/health care.

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In addition, female advisors appear to be broaching these subjects with women clients more often than male advisors. The next chart shows the percentage of male and female advisors who noted an increasing number of conversations with their female clients about various holistic planning topics. Charitable giving was the only area in which male advisors noted a higher increase in conversations than female advisors. Meanwhile, far more female advisors noted an increase in conversations around life goals and emotional/mental well-being.

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Our survey also asked male and female advisors whether they were having more conversations with male clients about these same issues. Although conversations with male clients increased across the board, the increase was less significant than those with female clients, and the gender of the advisor was not a meaningful predictor of the level of engagement with male clients.

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Who Demands Holistic Planning Most?

When it comes to holistic planning, demand is concentrated among a few client groups. When asked to identify three client segments that demand broader planning services, 23% of advisors selected females, while only 3% selected males. That translates to females being 9.1 times more likely to demand broader services than their male counterparts.

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Older, middle-aged and wealthier clients were also more likely than other client segments to demand broader services. Those results were less surprising, however, given the more intricate planning required for someone who has accumulated more assets or an older client who must navigate the complexities of retirement, health, children and possibly grandchildren.

The Changing Nature of Advice

Dual industry forces are reshaping the traditional role of the financial advisor. On one end, people are living longer, which brings on a range of additional planning topics from health and well-being, to health care costs and even the need to extend nest eggs or, in some cases, downsize a home or budget. On the other end, a more inclusive family decision-making process is also changing advisors’ roles as spouses and children are brought into more discussions. As a result, the financial advisors’ role is becoming more important. On the following pages, we share quotes from survey participants about how their roles have changed during their careers.

“I now try to listen more and talk less. I try to engage them in conversation, rather than lecture. I try to secure their buy-in before attempting to press further when it comes to their decision-making.”

“Early on, I had questionnaires for clients to fill out. Now, we talk—or, rather, they talk and I listen and make notes. I talk only when we start to fill out forms or when needed.”

“We focus far more on the psychological needs and concerns of our clients than we did initially 39 years ago. Then I thought my job was to make money for clients … I learned that I am in the ‘anxiety reduction’ business more than I am in the ‘investment’ business.”