YOUR PRACTICE-Habits of the most successful financial advisers

CHICAGO Mon Feb 10, 2014 5:29pm EST

CHICAGO Feb 10 (Reuters) - The most successful financial advisers take their time picking up new technology, focus on the "client experience" and deemphasize back-office trades, according to a new study from Fidelity Investments.

Fidelity identified "high-performing" registered investment advisers (RIAs) - those in the top quartile for growth, profitability and productivity, regardless of size. The firm, which polled more than 500 RIAs last spring, pointed to a number of practices the most successful advisers held in common.

"High-performing firms are doing a lot of things differently," said David Canter, executive vice president of Fidelity Investments. He said the top achievers depended on high-quality support staff and used technology that enabled them to scale up their services.

"An adviser at a high-performing firm can service more clients at higher asset levels," Canter said.

Here are some other takeaways for advisers looking to build their independent firms into industry leaders:

- Close the sale faster. High performers were closing business in a shorter time; 77 percent closed in two or fewer meetings, compared with 57 percent for all other firms, said Fidelity. Winners have a clear client target profile and they stick to it, with only 3 percent straying from that goal, the study said.

- Keep up with technology, but don't go crazy buying the latest and greatest. The top-performing firms used customer relationship management (CRM) systems to track customers, beginning at the prospect stage. At the same time, the leading RIAs were slow to adopt some technologies - such as cloud-based systems or other software that integrated all aspects of their practices - that could disrupt their business. Some 60 percent of high-performing RIAs say the biggest impediment to moving forward with whole-office synchronizing systems was worry that glitches could interrupt the flow of work and hurt their customers' experiences.

- Outsource strategically. Almost 40 percent of firms polled do not outsource any portion of their business. Those high-performing firms that do concentrated their outsourcing on areas, like data reconciliation and financial reporting, that wouldn't affect client relationships. That gave in-house advisers more time to focus on client strategy.

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