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Friday, May 03, 2013

Fundsters, Focus on Client Problems!

Reported by Tommy Fernandez

There are few things more fustrating for distribution executives than a fund wholesaler who will talk for hours on their products — and nothing else.

Leaders of some of the major distribution channels said they want fund firms to provide much more information and education on their products. They also want fundsters to package these products in "solutions" that include advise and insight on how to use these funds well.

And oh yeah, fundsters, please remember that investors want you to never forget that their investments have jobs to do — and they go beyond just beating some esoteric benchmark.

These were among the blunt messages communicated during a morning session titled "Commitment to Investors in Challenging Times," held at the ICI GMM Conference held at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C.

The talk was moderated by WBill Glavin, chairman, president, and CEO of Oppenheimer Funds [profile]. His panelists were: Patrick O’Connell, executive vice president, Ameriprise Advisor Group; John Thiel, head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and Jim Weddle, managing partner, Edward Jones.

The wide-ranging conversation hit on a number of topics, including hiring, the different and still evolving needs of Baby Boomers versus subsequent generations, andthe looming challenges of fee-based and fiduciary business models.

Thiel had this to say on the subject
It is not about how well your funds do. That info is so readily available. Let's get to the next level of value. Service is always a component of this.
Success, Thiel said, is about maintaining a responsive relationship with advisors which includes educating and heping them to wind through investment trends.

In short, it is about moving beyond just managing the technical issues of an investment decision and developing a mindset focused on solving the clients' problems: i.e. saving for retirement, for getting kid through college.

Weddle, who said that his firm works hard to get its 12,000 financial advisors together to meet with fund manufacturers to learn about their products, had this to say.
Our advisors are always hungry for and anxious for quality presentations.

Don't show up and say "We've got 42 mutual funds. I'm going to devote one minute on each." That is a waste of time.
Instead, Weddle wants fund wholesalers to come in and offer advise on how these products can be applied for various solutions.

"That is what we need to hear," he said.

Thiel said that financial professionals "have to pivot, shift our focus on how we think about clients' money."

Instead of thinking about money in a very technical and jargony paradigm, financial professionals have to "start to think about money the way" their clients do.

"Clients are tired of our pie charts, they really are," he said. 

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