Author Archives: John Ndege

About John Ndege

Founder and CEO of Pocketrisk.com. Risk Profiling software For Financial Advisors.

[Introducing Pocket Risk 2] Why Risk Tolerance Questionnaires Should Not Be Used For Prospecting

In recent years there has been a plethora of risk tolerance tools releasing features to help advisors acquire more clients. The theory goes by assessing a client’s risk tolerance we can know what investments best suit their psychology, a portfolio they will “stick with”.

However, this contradicts the true purpose of a financial advisor, which is to help clients achieve their long-term financial goals. Simply investing along the lines of someone’s psychology could result in a plan that has too little risk or too much.

The Customer Acquisition Challenge

Advisors like these customer acquisition features because they believe it will bring in more clients. But the real customer acquisition cure for advisors is not better technology but more trust and awareness. See research and commentary here and here.

The primary purpose of a risk questionnaire is to educate an advisor about a client’s risk tolerance, risk capacity and risk needs (goals). With this information an advisor can build a plan likely to hit the goal, without the client bailing out midway. A client’s psychology should not be ignored but it should definitely not be the main driver of a plan.

Jumping from risk tolerance to investment portfolios without adequate consideration for goals and risk capacity is a recipe for short-term satisfaction and long-term dissatisfaction.

Introducing Pocket Risk 2

Every week, advisors ask us to build more and more “customer acquisition” features. It’s tempting since, we want to make money but it doesn’t feel like the right thing in the long run. The right thing is a tool to educate advisors and clients that promotes good behavior. Since behavior is the primary determinant of investor returns.

We have released a new risk questionnaire that assesses goals, risk tolerance and risk capacity so advisors can collect the information they need to build a plan that works in the long-run.

Our new feature set is about enhancing the financial planning differentiation advisors have today against robo-advisors rather than trying to compete in commoditized investment management technology. The advisory customer acquisition challenge will be won in personalized financial planning, where robo-advisors cannot easily compete.

Click here to take the risk questionnaire

 risk tolerance questionnaire

How RIAs Should Prepare For The DOL Fiduciary Rule – Interview with Cathy Vasilev #FearlessFinancialAdvisorPodcast

A compliance focused interview with Cathy Vasilev on how financial advisors can better manage the changing compliance landscape. Cathy Vasilev is a founder and VP of Red Oak Compliance. She’s been working with RIAs and BDs for over 25 years and has considerable experience helping firms stay compliant.

In This Interview We Discuss…

0:37 – What is the biggest compliance issue facing RIAs and BDs at the moment?

02:12 – What are the main compliance requirements of setting up your own robo-advisor?

05:28 – Impact of DOL fiduciary rule on RIAs

08:00 – The first thing RIAs should do to get a handle on the fiduciary rule

11:10 – Common compliance mistakes

13:15 – Is compliance enforcement going up or down?

14:25 – How to use compliance to grow your business

16:05 – What advice would Cathy Vasilev give to his 30 year old self?

Resources

Pocket Risk Cathy VasilevLearn more about Cathy Vasilev

Interview MP3

 

How To Differentiate Your Financial Advisory Practice – Interview with Marion Asnes #FearlessFinancialAdvisorPodcast

A marketing focused interview with Marion Asnes on how financial advisors can differentiate their firms. Marion Asnes is the President of Idea Refinery a strategic marketing and communications consultancy for financial service firms. Previously she was the Chief Marketing Officer at Envestnet and Editor of Financial Planning Magazine.

Learn more about Marion Asnes

In This Interview We Discuss…

0:32 – How to differentiate a financial advisory practice managing $100-$500m

02:20 – Know how to grow by segmenting your clients

05:29 – Example – Corporate executives as your niche clients

7:35 – How to handle legacy clients that don’t fit your niche

09:30 – How to build your reputation in the community

12:30 – The power of running events

19:40 – How much marketing do I have to do to get results?

22:22 – How to better communicate with your clients

25:40 – Has it harder to be a good financial advisor today?

30:55 – What advice would Marion Asnes give to his 30 year old self?

Resources
Marion AsnesLearn more about Marion Asnes

Marion Asnes on Twitter

Interview MP3

 

Harry Beckwith - Selling The InvisibleThe planning process tends to attract perfectionists. But something paralyzes these people: their fear that executing the plan will show that the plan was not perfect. So rather than risk being found out, these people do nothing. They wait.

Many outstanding big-picture thinkers are always looking for, and burdened by, this search for perfection. But too often, the path to perfection leads to procrastination. Don’t let perfect ruin good.” – Harry Beckwith, Selling The Invisible

Client Suitability Compliance: A Comparative Review Of The USA, UK, Canada and Australia

Suitability ComplianceWe can learn a lot from our neighbours, including how to manage a client’s suitability for a certain investments. The U.S., U.K, Canada, Australia and a number of other countries have produced guidelines around client suitability including the use of risk tolerance questionnaires. Below is an overview of where each country stands.

U.S.A. – Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Securities Exchange Commission (SEC)

FINRA Rule 2111 discusses client suitability when advisors recommend investments. It states advisors must…

have a reasonable basis to believe that a recommended transaction or investment strategy involving a security or securities is suitable for the customer, based on the information obtained through the reasonable diligence of the [firm] or associated person to ascertain the customer’s investment profile. In general, a customer’s investment profile would include the customer’s age, other investments, financial situation and needs, tax status, investment objectives, investment experience, investment time horizon, liquidity needs and risk tolerance.

FINRA defines risk tolerance as a client’s “ability and willingness to lose some or all of [the] original investment in exchange for greater potential returns”. This what we would call risk tolerance and risk capacity. With regards to questions and questionnaires FINRA states they must not be “confusing or misleading“. Advisors are not forced to use a risk questionnaire but FINRA recognizes advisors use such tools as a best practice.

Financial Advisors regulated by the SEC are held to the fiduciary standard, meaning they must legally and ethically act in people’s best interest. The SEC provides little specifics on risk questionnaires. However, they do say any presentation of data must be clear and not misleading.

U.K. – Financial Conduct Authority (Formerly the Financial Services Authority)

The UK has the most prescriptive suitability rules in the world. In 2011 the FSA released “Assessing Suitability: Establishing the risk a customer is willing and able to take and making a suitable investment selection“. The assessment found that most advisors were not properly assessing client suitability for investment. Their main findings were that…

  • Advisors were not diligently assessing risk tolerance AND risk capacity
  • Advisors were not assessing clients’ investment knowledge and experience
  • Advisors were using poorly constructed questionnaires that could sway clients too far into aggressive risks. Questionnaires did not have enough granularity.

Since this paper was released standards for suitability investment have increased. All UK advisors now have to provide a Suitability Report when recommending investments to clients.

Canada – Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA)

Canada has a complex financial regulatory system due it’s decentralized government. Financial regulation happens at the national level and at the provence level. However, the responsibility for client suitability has been led by the IIROC and the MFDA.

The IIROC has a series of KYC (Know Your Client) regulations including the requirement to demonstrate a client’s risk willingness, financial ability, time horizon and investment objectives. There is no specific mention of using a risk questionnaire but KYC forms are encouraged.

MFDA has been significantly more prescriptive and even provided a basic “safe harbor” risk questionnaire for financial advisors. They are the first regulator to talk about the need to measure a client’s risk tolerance, risk capacity and risk needs. Jointly these represent a person’s overall risk profile.

Australia – Australian Securities and Investments Commission

The focus for Australian regulators is that best interests have been applied by the Financial Services Professional (FSPs). Professionals must ensure the financial products they recommend are suitable having regard to each client’s objectives, financial situation and needs. An important part of an FSP’s assessment of a client’s objectives, financial situation and needs is the knowledge of the client’s tolerance to risk.

The regulator goes a step further and states FSPs should “educate their clients about risk and reward” and ensure couples are assessed individually.

ASIC and the Financial Ombudsman are supportive of risk questionnaires but state FSPs should not be 100% dependent on their results. They should use their judgement in conjunction with a questionnaire.

Conclusion

Regulators support and acknowledge the concepts of risk tolerance, risk capacity and risk need. They are increasingly prescriptive about measuring these constructs however, they don’t want a client assessment to become a “check the box” exercise and have thus shied away from developing detailed questionnaires. What they are looking for is consistency, objectivity and diligence when advisors recommend investments to clients.