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10th annual Market Survey of Independent Financial Advisors (IFAs) and their clients

14 September 2016

Over 90% of independent financial advisors expect digitization to drive profound transformations in their business during the coming decade

BNP Paribas Cardif has published the results of its 10th annual market survey of Independent Financial Advisors (IFAs) and their clients1. Conducted with KANTAR TNS, one of the largest research agencies worldwide, this market survey details the perceptions of the financial advisor profession among IFAs, as well as their clients and prospects.

For the 10th edition of its annual market survey, BNP Paribas Cardif reviews key changes during the previous decade, examines the impact of digitization on the sector, and looks at the vision independent financial advisors have of the coming ten years. The survey spotlights three findings in particular:

  • For the third consecutive year, IFAs expressed a positive view of their profession.
  • Digitization is perceived by IFAs above all as a source of opportunities.
  • Continued client confidence underpins a positive outlook for business growth.

Jean-Christophe Boccon-Gibod, Head of Business Development for the Cardif and partners network at BNP Paribas Cardif France, commented: “The renewed optimism seen among IFAs since 2014 is confirmed by this year’s survey. They believe digitization creates opportunities, particularly in addressing new regulatory requirements for their business, which has been a key issue for the profession for the past ten years. Leveraging their key assets, namely the quality of advice and personalized wealth management, IFAs remain confident about the decade ahead.

>>Click here to see the details of the infographic. <<

Positive perception of the wealth management business for the third consecutive year

Thanks to ten years of relevant data from this annual survey, BNP Paribas Cardif has reviewed results from the past decade to better identify fundamental trends.  Thanks to ten years of relevant data from this annual survey, BNP Paribas Cardif has reviewed results from the past decade to better identify fundamental trends.

While the morale of IFAs has fluctuated due to instability in financial markets in recent years, 88% of them believe that their profession is doing well, an increase of 2% compared with 2015. The upturn in optimism among IFAs noted since 2014 (81%) is thus confirmed for the third consecutive year.

In 2016, over three-quarters of IFAs (79%) believe that their financial situation is comparable to or better than in 2015. The morale of IFAs is closely linked to market trends and performance, since in 2008 only 42% of the IFAs surveyed believed their financial situation was the same or better than the previous year.

In terms of new cash inflows, after two years of increases there was a modest decline as IFAs reported an average of 2.9 million euros in assets gathered in 2015, compared with 3.3 million euros in 2014. Forecasts for new cash nevertheless remain optimistic in 2016, as a majority of the IFAs (55%) expect an increase.

One issue that has been a priority for the entire profession for the past ten years is adapting to new regulations. As in 2007, virtually the entire profession agrees that compliance with increasingly complex regulations is the major challenge to be faced.

Furthermore, while nearly 90% of the IFAs believe that they need to diversify, this remains a paradox since the structure of their business portfolios has changed little since 2007 and remains centred on life insurance. This popular savings product among IFAs represents 53% of the products they distribute on average, compared with 50% in 2007. Real estate is second, but the proportion has declined slightly since the first survey (14% of products distributed in 2016, compared with 20% in 2007).

IFAs see the digital transformation as a source of opportunities

IFAs believe digital technologies are having an increasingly significant impact on their business: 58% say that digital solutions have changed their business, compared with 50% in 2015. This digitization is perceived as an opportunity, since it makes policy subscriptions easier and enhances the efficiency of policy management.

Even as conventional digital channels have become prevalent for communicating with clients (email, text messaging), the survey revealed growing interest in other technologies. IFA clients would increasingly like to use videoconferencing (22%) and instant messaging (20%) to communicate with their advisor. Currently only 3% of clients use these applications to contact their financial advisor.

A significant percentage of IFA clients (31%) have heard about online platforms called “robo-advisors”, which provide financial advice without human intervention, since they are new in the French market. However, almost none resort to them, and the potential of these platforms seems limited: only 16% of clients say they would be interested in using robo-advisors, and if they did, it would simply be to complement their IFA. Only 6% of potential users felt they might be able to replace their financial advisor with an automated online service.

A personal relationship and confidence in the expertise of the IFA remain essential for clients and remain the main reasons for which few people envisage resorting to robo-advisors. What’s more, 86% of those with little interest in these automated services place priority on personal contact and 65% have greater confidence in the expertise of an IFA.

At the same time, 52% of the IFAs believe that robo-advisors create opportunities to optimize their asset allocation decisions, while 35% see these platforms as competition.

Client confidence makes IFAs positive about the coming

More than nine out of ten IFAs (93%) are convinced that the profession of financial advisor will undergo profound transformations during the next ten years.

Digital transformation figures among the new challenges awaiting them in the coming decade. Nearly three-quarters of the IFAs (74%) believe that they must adapt to the digital transformation of the business and to new digital applications for communicating with their clients and managing their business (72%).

Currently, 52% of IFAs say that gaining client acceptance for billing fees for their services is a major issue for the profession. This percentage rises to 73% (+21 points) when they are asked about major challenges during the next ten years. The same is true for human resources issues. Recruiting skilled staff is currently considered a challenge for 43% of the respondents; this figure reaches 64% (+21 points) when the advisors look ahead to the coming decade.

What’s more, IFAs believe that private banks will be their biggest competitors in the next ten years. They also think that online activities will gain a significant position in tomorrow’s competitive landscape, since robo-advisors and online brokers are ranked 2nd and 3rd in the list of main competitors. The competitive environment has changed considerably since the first market survey in 2007, when IFAs said that retail banking networks constituted their biggest competitive fear. When IFAs are asked about the competitive environment in the coming ten years, retail banking networks drop to 6th place.

Despite the many challenges they expect over the next decade, IFAs remain confident: 76% of them believe their growth outlook for a 10-year horizon is “fairly robust” or “very robust”. They plan to continue their diversification into individual retirement plans (80%), individual protection (65%) and financial advisory services for businesses (62%).

Their key strength is an unfailing commitment to serving their clients, 92% of whom say they will remain confident in their IFAs in the years ahead. This high percentage reflects the positive image capital that independent financial advisors enjoy: nearly nine out of ten clients (88%) have a good image of IFAs and 38% say they have a “very good image”, up from 29% last year (+9 points). The main advantages cited by clients are the quality of the advice provided (52% of the clients surveyed), availability (39%) and personalized wealth management (37%).

Infographics showing results from the 10th annual Market Survey of Independent Financial Advisors and their clients are posted on

About BNP Paribas Cardif

BNP Paribas Cardif creates innovative savings and insurance solutions designed for performance in a world shaped by the emergence of new uses and lifestyles.

A subsidiary of BNP Paribas, the company has a unique business model anchored in partnerships. BNP Paribas Cardif co-creates solutions with distributors in a variety of sectors, who then market the products to their customers.

BNP Paribas Cardif has become a recognized global specialist in personal insurance, serving 90 million clients in 36 countries with strong positions in three regions – Europe, Asia and Latin America.

With nearly 10,000 employees , BNP Paribas Cardif had gross written premiums of €28 billion in 2015, 59% of which was generated outside France.

Follow the latest news about BNP Paribas Cardif: @bnpp_cardif


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1 Methodology: telephone survey conducted by KANTAR TNS between 30 May and 18 June 2016 covering two sample groups:

  • 301 IFAs. Interviewees were selected from a list of 2,857 Independent Financial Advisory firms representative of the IFA segment for a survey sample rate of 10.5% of the total population (representative nature of sample group validated using quotas for the sizes of the firms and the region).
  • 502 clients and prospects with financial assets of 75,000 euros or more (representativeness validated by quotas for gender, age, region and personal savings assets).