Finding and serving clients is harder than ever. Investors have increasing ways to invest, places to go to for help, as well as products and services to choose from. Improved CRM2-related transparency surrounding fees and performance, is providing them more information on that score too.

As if that were not enough, the ever-changing investment industry is making it harder for investment advisors to compete with self-service, robo-assisted, and other wealth management offerings.

One useful approach is to think of investors in broad categories. Political experts do this when they target broad voter groups such as “soccer moms,” “Reagan Democrats,” “college-educated white males,” and so on. People are of course complex. However understanding key client personas provides a useful framework from where to start.

Following are a few personas worth considering:

Mr. Penny Pincher
This investor has baseline investing experience, is self-aware enough to know he needs help, but unwilling to pay large fees. Mr. Penny Pincher figures that his needs are simple and that saving and investing prudently isn’t rocket science.

Who wins: A robo-advisor “lite” service should provide just enough online tools and research to help Mr. Penny Pincher get started. His low fees will provide him a lift when he hears what his friends are paying for full service.

Runner Up: An investment advisor who can connect on a personal level and empathize with Mr. Penny Pincher’s concerns, will have a shot at his business. If the advisor can catch his attention with a smart and engaging retirement plan, he can help him understand the value of good advice.

Ms. Worry Wart
This investor is uncomfortable with market swings and volatility-related stress. She has a history of bailing on investments based on the latest bad news. She is reactive, yet aware that her behavior has impacted her investment success.

Who wins: An advisor who provides full-service advice can best support Ms. Worry Wart by helping her to set investment goals and putting them in a long-term context. When volatility hits, Ms. Worry Wart needs a sounding board to express her concerns. Ms. Worry Wart knows the fees she pays are based on asset values and that these fees align her and her advisor’s desire to grow those assets.

Runner Up: Ms. Worry Wart, after building experience, may one day elect to switch to robo-advice, particularly if her advisor retires, or moves. For the transition to work she would need planning, goal tracking and asset management tools, as well as access to a predictable fee schedule.

Mr. Young Engineer
This tech savvy millennial is constantly looking for the latest and greatest. Mr. Young Engineer is a big fan of technical analysis and loves to read about investing strategies and hot stocks.

Who wins: A self-directed investment management provider with a robust, digitally enabled platform and lots of information should attract this up-and-comer.

Runner Up: Anyone else. Mr. Young Engineer is unburdened by loyalty and thus has no qualms about changing providers to chase the latest digital features or sales deals. He likely simultaneously holds assets at multiple institutions.

Ms. Alternative Investor
This investor is looking for cutting-edge strategies. This includes the latest new issue or private placement. Her willingness to make risk-adjusted “bets” outweighs volatility or liquidity concerns. Ms. Alternative Investor often has the financial capacity to take on the extra risk.

Who wins: Niche advisors in full service firms offer unique deals and unconventional investments for Ms. Alternative Investor.

Runner Up: A self-directed firm with a full variety of investment options and a fully integrated trading platform could also be a viable choice. Bonus if this firm has a program to make affluent investors feel special.


In short, while understanding personas is a useful tool for navigating marketing dynamics, “knowing your client” and “knowing what your client values” remain key when it comes to providing effective service, solutions and cost offerings in this rapidly-changing investment environment.