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Financial Advisor Performance Data Is Biased, Many Investors Say

June 23, 2017

This article was featured on ThinkAdvisor

Some investors compare advisor reports to a school report card written by the student.

Forty-one percent of investors in a new report by Phoenix Marketing International said either that they were not provided or did not know whether they were provided with core information about investment performance from their investment advisor, 401(k) plan provider and other financial firms.

In addition, 35% of investors said they were not highly confident that the information they received was accurate and reliable.

“Real transparency isn’t simply throwing more data at investors,” David Thompson, managing director of Phoenix Marketing International’s financial services affluent practice, said in a statement.

“It’s about providing investors with relevant, reliable and straightforward information about investment performance and progress toward goals, with an understanding of how they prioritize that information.”

The relationship between investors and investment advisors is based on trust, Thompson said. “Transparent reporting may be the best tool advisors have to earn that trust, differentiate themselves and demonstrate their value.”

The study was derived from the Phoenix Wealth & Affluent Monitor investor tracking program. Online questionnaires were completed by 2,626 respondents with a minimum of $100,000 in investable assets, and interviews were conducted in October and December.

Phoenix said the report was the first in a series to explore reporting based on investor priorities, risk factors, by type of firm/channel and service level from self-directed to robo to full-service.

In one key finding, some investors discerned an inherent conflict of interest with investment advisors as the source of performance reports.

Phoenix researchers found that this was the case across the discretionary advice spectrum, from automated robo-advisory platforms to full-service wealth management, and whether or not a fiduciary standard applied.

For some investors in the study, this raised the question whether disclosures and the presentation of performance measures changed depending on results and whether third-party validation would show a different outcome.

“Through the eyes of some investors, a performance report crafted by an advisor or firm overseeing the investments is like a school report card written by the student,” Thompson said. “Confidence not only in the data and how it is presented but also who it comes from affects investor behavior and is a perception financial firms will want to address.”

Wealth management professionals recently discussed the growth and evolution of robo-advisors. A survey published in April delved into why investors support the fiduciary rule.

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