Study results: High-net-worth investors weigh in on marketing that works

Key Points

  • Independent advisors are looking for new ways to communicate and create meaningful relationships with high-net-worth (HNW) investors, including existing clients and new prospects. 

  • As part of our "Independent Difference" campaign, a national advertising initiative for independent financial advisors, Schwab commissioned a study to gather insights about what HNW individuals look for in a financial advisor and how to better market to them. 

  • The study surveyed 25 HNW investors with $1 million or more in investable assets. Results netted key insights that can be used to develop more targeted messaging strategies that reach and convert more HNW investors.


Most high-net-worth individuals got where they are by knowing what they want out of life. To discover what these individuals want in a financial advisor, Schwab's 2021 Marketing to High-Net-Worth Investors study dug a little deeper by doing something revolutionary—asking them. Here's what they had to say.*

It's not about having all the answers

While you may think that investors are looking for your marketing to win them over with bold benefit statements, financial models, and historical data, sometimes all they really want is for you to ask them questions—about themselves. They want you to show an interest in who they are and what they have to say. In fact, the majority of respondents felt that when marketing poses questions about their personal circumstances instead of just providing facts, it sounds more authentic, personable, and relatable, like you're speaking directly to them.

"When I read the questions, it's like they're just talking to me. It makes you think about you personally, your money, your advisor. It's more relatable."

—High-Net-Worth Investor survey respondent

Ease up on the jargon

It turns out that no matter how sophisticated they are or how high their assets, investors don't want to hear financial jargon. Whether on the phone, via email, or through marketing messages on your website, HNW investors want to be spoken to like a person, without all the fancy financial-speak and sales tactics. 

"I didn't like 'business model,' and I think it sounded, for lack of a better word, colder." 

—High-Net-Worth Investor survey respondent

Focus on more interactions versus transactions 

Investors want you to go beyond the transaction to interact with them on a more personal level by discussing their goals outside of their finances. You have to show them that they're more than just a number. More often than not, their goal isn't to make millions of dollars; it's to purchase a new vacation home or retire early. Whatever investors want to do with the money, the transactions are just a vehicle to get there. Transactions are one and done, but relationships go on.

Show them the difference

The study confirmed that the word "fiduciary" can be confusing, even to the most sophisticated investors. And as Regulation Best Interest opens the door for more non-Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firms to adopt the term, it's becoming even more confusing for investors. While most investors surveyed understood the importance of having an advisor who puts clients' interests above their own, many felt that it was the cost of entry, not a differentiator. However, many (even savvy investors) assumed that their advisor was a fiduciary and trusted that all advisors would hold themselves to this standard. It's important to point out that this isn't always the case.

It's clear that investors just want someone they can trust and believe in. They want the knowledge and tools to help them make educated decisions.

"That's actually a good point, because not all financial advisors are fiduciaries. So I'd be interested in learning more about these advisors and about mine."

—High-Net-Worth Investor survey respondent

Putting insights into practice    

Now that you know more of what HNW investors are looking for and their preferred communication style, use these insights to shape your marketing efforts. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Comb your website and social pages for fancy catchphrases and jargon—then delete them. Replace with more conversational synonyms if you can. Just keep it real, and speak to investors in an empathetic tone. For example, instead of saying, "We operate in a business model that offers transparency," try saying, "We built our firm to offer more transparency."
  2. Use your marketing materials to encourage engagement rather than just provide information. A great way to do this is to ask questions on your social media pages and invite your audience to respond. Then follow up to show them you're listening. Instead of saying, "Regardless of what your retirement goals may be, our financial plans position you for success," try asking, "What kind of life do you want for yourself in retirement?"
  3. Don't assume investors understand the fiduciary difference and what it truly means to have their best interest at heart. Explain it to them in clear and concise language in your marketing materials so they feel empowered to make their own decisions. Spark reconsideration by asking questions such as, "Is your financial advisor a fiduciary? Are they always a fiduciary?" You may even consider hosting a webinar to explain the difference.
  4. Check the bounce rates on your website. If the number is high (over 50%), consider switching up your messaging. Test different copy or visuals that take into account the insights from our study to see what resonates.
  5. Your website is often a prospect's first impression of your business. Make it a strong one by keeping it simple yet informative. Check out our guide  on how to make your website a lead-capturing machine.  

The bottom line

The 2021 Marketing to High-Net-Worth Investors study is an important part of our ongoing effort to help you better connect with your clients. It's just one of the many ways we help meet the needs of independent advisors everywhere. Visit our "Independent Difference" campaign site today to view the complete consumer-facing campaign, and be sure to use the growth resources  and tools we offer to RIA firms like yours.

What you can do next

  • Visit our "Independent Difference" campaign site today to view the complete consumer-facing campaign, and be sure to use the growth resources and tools we offer to RIA firms like yours.
  • Consider a custodian that invests in your success. If you're thinking about becoming an independent advisor, contact us to learn more about the benefits of a Schwab custodial relationship.