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How Advisors Find ‘Ideal’ Clients

Overall, business development is the leading concern of advisors. Finding new clients is a very or extremely important concern for 79.3% of advisors. This is according to a 2023 survey of 421 advisors.

Digging deeper, almost half of the advisors surveyed find their “ideal” clients from client referrals (see Exhibit 1). About two in five say it is from center of influence referrals. And the remaining approaches are much less meaningful.

Exhibit 1: Best Way To Find “Ideal” Clients

  • Client referrals            48.0%
  • COIs                            39.7%
  • Seminars                     6.4%
  • Events                         3.1%
  • Social media               2.9%

It is telling that the income of advisors who get them from client referrals is significantly less than those who get them from centers of influence.

According to Brett Van Bortel, director of development & delivery with Invesco Global Consulting and co-author of Street-Smart Networking: How Financial and Legal Professionals Can Cultivate Centers of Influence for a Flood of New Affluent Clients, “There is a direct correlation between the income of an advisor and how they find their ‘ideal’ clients. The greater their income, the less prominent client referrals become, and the more centers of influence referrals matter. More specifically, we find that the most effective way for advisors to source wealthy and ultra-wealthy clients are referrals from accountants and attorneys.” (see Exhibit 2)

Exhibit 2: Best Way To Source “Ideal” Clients By Advisor Income

Best Way<$200K$200K-$500K>$500KWeighted Average
Client referrals69.7%48.1%17.0%48.0%
COI referrals11.4%40.0%78.7%39.7%

The complication for many advisors is effectively building relationships with centers of influence, resulting in a steady stream of new “ideal” clients. “There are many approaches to building strategic partnerships with centers of influence, and while they tend to sound good, few work well,” says Van Bortel.

According to Andree Mohr, chief implementation officer for Integrated Partners, a leading financial advisory firm where she oversees the growth initiatives, including the CPA Alliance program, “Working with accountants can deliver major business opportunities. For example, an Integrated Partners advisor was introduced to an entrepreneur who sold his business and had $40 million after taxes. The entrepreneur talked to advisor teams from leading private banks and wirehouses for months, trying to decide how much to give each advisor team. Within one week of being introduced by the entrepreneur’s accountant, the Integrated Partners advisor manages all $40 million. The introduction from the accountant not only set up the opportunity but was instrumental in the Integrated Partners advisor getting the assets to manage.”

Depending on the nature, including the wealth level of an advisor’s ideal clients, referrals are the most effective way to source them. However, as the wealth levels increase, the importance of client referrals diminishes while the value of referrals from centers of influence such as accountants and attorneys increases.

Russ Alan Prince is the executive director of Private Wealth and a strategist for family offices and the ultra-wealthy. He has co-authored 70 books in the field, including Making Smart Decisions: How Ultra-Wealthy Families Get Superior Wealth Planning Results.


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