David Edwards, of Heron Financial Group in Nantucket, Mass., knows a lot about smooth sailing. Each year he hosts a sailing regatta in the British Virgin Islands to connect with ultra-high net worth clients.
But the 58-year-old Edwards believes the RIA business will be anything but smooth sailing – unless investment advisors begin on boarding the less affluent “next generation” of clients – and discovering more efficient models for delivering financial advice. The future will belong to advisors who can navigate the winds of changing technology and consumer preference.
“Of 13,000 RIAs in business, half will be gone in the next decade,” Edwards predicts. “The cost of everything we do is becoming higher, including healthcare benefits. But fees are getting squeezed.”
Edwards refers to the 1-2% on assets routinely charged by RIAs in the last two decades. He says today’s average RIA fee hovers around 80 basis points as lower-cost providers create attractive 25-basis-point advice platforms for younger investors. He likens the business climate to where travel agents were some 20 years ago – just as the internet took off, and right before Expedia.com forever changed the travel business.
“If you don’t accept this changing reality and recalibrate your marketing efforts, you’re not going to have a business five to 10 years from now,” he says.