The success of financial advisors in profitability, revenue growth, and attracting clients was the overriding theme in the 14th edition of the 2008 Moss Adams LLP Financial Performance Study of Advisory Firms, recently released and sponsored by Genworth Financial Wealth Management. For the average firm, new assets from new clients accounted for about two-thirds of growth, expanding assets under management by 13.5 percent. However, the study shows that only one in four firms has a well-defined succession plan and many firms, some 44 percent, have no plan at all.   Actually, Dan Inveen of Moss Adams, who prepared the excellent release, said that while the current flux in performance of the financial markets may be causing advisors concern, the demand for objective financial advice is likely to increase. “Forward-thinking firms will recognize this as a time of opportunity and will continue to improve their effectiveness and show value in serving the market. Plenty of potential exists for further growth.”   Looking at this in greater depth, the study turned up the fact that advisors in the top performing firms spend the most time on client service and business development. Actually, the top 25 percent of solo firms (meaning firms with one owner/professional) spend 56 percent of their time on client service and business development, compared to other firms that only spend 46 percent of their time on these activities.   Moreover, top-performing ensemble firms also gain leverage with non-professional staff. The smallest multi-professional firms (less than $2 million in revenue) employ 1.2 non-professionals for every professional. The same ratio applies for the larger firms ($2 million - $5 million in revenue), which is double at 2.4, thereby allowing professionals to focus more time on business development and client activities, and less time on administrative and operations tasks.   Of course, expansion for advisory firms raises new and impending issues as a significant number of firm owners are nearing retirement. Though firms have been trying to recruit and retain experienced professionals, the demand has outweighed the supply. As a result, this could leave firm owners holding concentrated positions in a valuable asset with no ownership transition plan. The 2008 study shows that only one in four firms has a well-defined succession plan and 44 percent have no plan at all.   In addition, the aging advisor population, coupled with strong growth in the advisor industry, indicates that transactions will be prevalent in coming years. In fact, within the past two years, 29 percent of firms considered a sale, with 37 percent citing succession as the primary motivation behind this consideration. On the opposite side, more than half (55 percent) of the firms expressed an interest in acquisition, with most citing growth and efficiency as the driving factors.   For more information, visit www.mossadams.com/2008advisorstudy.

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