Can’t buy me love, say HNW clients

The latest CapGemini World Wealth Report is out, and it’s full of cheery news – rich people are richer than ever, and globally, there are more of them than ever before. The last two years have produced double-digit returns for global investors. But even as their wealth has been growing, the satisfaction level of high net worth investors (HNWI) has proven hard to budge. They’re significantly wealthier, but only a little happier with their financial teams. So why?

The CapGemini report cites a few areas where HNWI could be happier: fee levels, high expectations for customized offerings, and the desire for more complete services are suggested as barriers to higher satisfaction. But the primary reason, CapGemini proposes, is that clients do not experience enough connection with their financial advisors.

Connection: a basic need… and increasingly scarce?

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that people want to feel connected. Researchers are increasingly finding evidence for the power of social connection in both our health and our happiness. Indeed, research suggests that social connection is a basic component of health; going without it could be worse for you than smoking. Scientist Matthew Lieberman, author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, even finds that our brains default to a social state, a mode of thinking where we are ready to interpret the way people around us are feeling in order to understand their actions. After we complete a non-social task, our social-connector networks fire back up. It’s literally our default mode.

Modern life may provide an abundance of material goods and convenience, but it does seem that our social connectedness is on the decline – and loneliness is on the rise. In fact, nearly half of Americans view themselves as lonely, according to one recent survey, and the trend was surprisingly strong among the youngest respondents. The U.K. even appointed a Minister of Loneliness.

How financial firms and advisors can connect

Of course, the Capgemini report isn’t the first to suggest that the personal relationship is key to client satisfaction. A recent Natixis report, the 2017 U.S. Survey of Individual Investors, offered a list of the top eight things people want from their financial advisors – number one was “listen.” That implies a personal interaction. And number two was “offer investments that reflect personal values” – that implies their advisor understands their values. By the way, “higher investment returns” did not even make the list.

Notably, the relationship between satisfaction levels and recent investment returns is not uniform around the world. CapGemini finds that some regions, including the U.K, Australia, and Japan, reported little or no increase in satisfaction levels over the last two years. HNWI in the U.S. reported a larger increase in satisfaction with their financial firms and advisors, as did countries in Latin America. Younger investors also had a higher increase than older investors.

Still, overall satisfaction levels just didn’t budge much. These findings should put firms and advisors on notice – if this kind of market environment only gets clients into a modestly more satisfied state, imagine what lies ahead when markets inevitably hit a rough patch. Perhaps it’s the power of connection that will determine which clients stick it out with their current firms. And when it comes to financial relationships in particular, consider this: people who feel more connected have lower levels of anxiety. Surely that’s a preferred state of mind when market turmoil does return.