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The One Thing Financial Advisors Want to Ask Clients

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) Next year, your financial advisor is very likely to pop the question: "Is there anyone you know and care about that might benefit from the work I do?" The referral pitch. It's the top New Year's resolution for advisors heading into 2014 -- increasing referrals from their top clients -- according to a survey released by SEI, the investment processing provider.

An overwhelming majority (85%) place gaining referrals at the top of their resolution list. But efficiency is a big runner-up. Systemizing internal processes to increase efficiency (67%) and integrating technology to increase efficiency (59%) were also top priorities.

For advisors, it's all about growing their book of business. Other ways financial consultants are looking to start the year off right: meeting new centers of influence (59%), being more selective of new clients "for fit" (48%), and finding more prospects through social media (31%).

"2013 was a very good year for many advisor firms and the resolutions show they are thinking about building on their successes," said John Anderson, head of practice management for the SEI advisor network. "I think it is great to see that while still focusing on growth (mostly via referrals) advisors are looking to make their offices more efficient and better organized allowing them to run a better business. Increased gross revenue and lower expenses should lead to a better 2014 for all. I hope they keep those resolutions."

More than two-thirds of the advisors surveyed were "cautiously optimistic" about the coming year, while just 18% said they were "excited."

When asked to make market predictions, the advisor forecast was upbeat. Most (87%) believe the Dow Jones Industrial Average will be higher in one year, with half of respondents (55%) predicting the Dow will be between 16,500 and 17,500. Just over one in five (21%) predict the Dow will be between 16,000 and 16,500, 10% of advisors polled predict it will be above 17,500, while only 13% believe it will be below 16,000.

What could spoil the good vibe advisors are feeling? Just under half of those polled (41%) said a market pullback was their biggest concern going into 2014, followed by tapering by the Fed (24%) and tax increases (15%).

The survey was completed by more than 800 financial advisors.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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