LISA SALVI: Hi, I'm Lisa Salvi. Let's take a look at some of the findings from our most recent RIA Benchmarking Study.
Last year, the challenging environment became a catalyst for remarkable growth. And the great news is that growth was fueled by advisors adding new clients and expanding relationships with existing clients. Sixty-eight percent of firms tell us that they met or exceeded their new client goals in 2020. And most of those firms also saw a very strong uptick in net assets from existing clients.
Some of the factors that help firms succeed include quickly adapting the tools and tactics used to win new business and stay connected with clients, taking advantage of technology to enhance productivity, and continuing to attract and develop talent firms need to support current and future growth.
The environment of uncertainty meant investors needed advisor guidance more than ever, and RIAs, as always, delivered. Firms adapted to how they support clients and attracting and convert prospects. Eighty percent of firms tell us that they closed a new client relationship completely virtually in the past year, something I don't think we would have contemplated in a normal business environment.
Digital tools, of course, played an essential role in staying connected and getting work done. The firm's website became the new front door for connecting with prospects. Firms tried new things, like virtual events and podcasts, and many expanded their use of social media.
Virtual meetings became critically important for delivering the client experience, really, the cornerstone of connecting with both clients and prospects.
What advisors have learned will take them into a hybrid future. Firms report that they think they're going to do 30% of their new business virtually even after COVID restrictions are lifted.
As everyone became more accustomed to working together virtually, the benefits became clear. Flexibility and convenience helped to strengthen relationships and boosted efficiency.
Firms saw several productivity gains year-over-year, such as decreasing the amount of time they spend per client on operations by 6% in just a one-year period.
Firms that really adapted to this digital-first mentality can see a compounding effect of this in the future, as they're able to scale, serve more clients, and partially offset some of the margin compression that has creeped in.
Though technology continues to play an increasingly important role, people are still a firm's most important asset.
Across the study firms continue to hire in 2020 and most firms, eight out of 10, say that they're hiring in 2021.
Across the study there's many strategic priorities to choose from. And the number two strategic priority was hiring and recruiting talent. That's the highest we've ever seen it, and a very clear indicator that talent is definitely a differentiator of the future.
Competition for that talent is going to remain fierce, and it's a really good time to take a look at your employee value proposition, and make sure it's helping you recruit, retain, and develop the right talent for your firm. Some of the things a good employee value proposition include are your approach to the work environment, and that would include things like whether or not there's flexible remote work options at your firm, compelling compensation, base salary, incentive pay, profit distributions, even non-cash compensation, even whether you have career paths, and professional learning opportunities and development for your team members.
And more and more your firm's culture and commitment to inclusivity are also very important to job seekers.
The quick pivot to a virtual model was definitely a challenge, but most firms believe it spurred innovation and will make them stronger. Many leaders are looking ahead to build a strong culture and operating model that incorporates the best of both in-person and virtual.
This hybrid approach could help firms become more scalable and nimble as client expectations continue to evolve, paving the way for future success.
A huge thank you to all the firms that participated in the 2021 study. And whether you participated or not, there's a lot of findings you can dive deeper into to help you get to the next level for your firm.