Survey Says… Schwab Branch Managers Provide a Window Into Clients
We often get asked how our clients are feeling about specific market events, and how they are responding to market activity in general. For a window into the current state of mind of Schwab clients, last month we talked to a good number of our branch managers – 137 financial pros who are responsible for managing nearly 300 branches across the country – using a short survey that posed a few key questions. Here’s a look at what we asked them, and what they told us:
We asked: Which issues have been most talked about by Schwab clients in the last few months?
The economic issue most talked about by clients – by a wide margin – has been the European debt crisis. Nearly seven in 10 branch managers say this is the #1 issue on the minds of clients. In contrast, they say more distant economic worries include things like interest rates (22%), unemployment (6%) and the housing market (3%).
Branch managers tell us that their teams’ recent interactions with clients have been dominated by talk of risk management, and that clients are asking for help staying focused on their goals in these times of market volatility; they say clients have been expressing more interest lately in cash, precious metals, individual bonds and managed investing solutions, aka advice. And these branch teams should know: last year, they had more than 493,000 face-to-face interactions with investors… and they held nearly 11,000 in-person events that were attended by more than 107,000 people!
We asked: What’s the best way to describe the role we play with clients nowadays?
I think it’s fascinating: clients are increasingly relying on us to act as counselors who help them stay grounded and control their emotions when it come to investing; they’re also avidly looking to us to be tailors who customize ideas that meet their unique needs.
We asked: What’s most important to clients now, and what kind of activities have we been helping clients with?
In the past year, branch managers say their clients have demonstrated renewed passion around fully understanding their complete financial situation. They are asking lots of great questions, because they want to gain a better understanding of how the market and economy could impact their individual investing goals. And they are asking for specific, actionable ideas that will help them achieve their long-term goals.
Outside of portfolio help & guidance, then, it makes sense that overall financial planning is the most common activity we undertook for retail clients in 2011 – in fact, we helped more than 10,000 clients with financial plans in 2011.
We asked: Looking ahead, do the clients of your branch think that a year from now they will be better off financially, worse off, or about the same as now?
Not surprisingly, there are some optimists out there, along with a few pessimists. But our branch managers tell us that by-and-large, most retail clients feel that their financial situation will look largely the same a year from now.