Affluent Consumers Rate Major Financial Service Firms on Integrity, Performance and Service

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Affluent Americans say they most highly prioritize integrity in financial services firms, but recent analysis by Premium Knowledge Group finds a strong link between customers' ratings of how well their firm achieves results and their plans to increase or decrease funds with that firm. Several major firms are not meeting customer expectations on the attributes most important to their affluent customers and could face difficulties acquiring new business as well as retaining business from affluent financial services customers.

New analysis by Premium Knowledge Group (PKG) reveals that the recently tarnished reputations of major financial institutions and the financial services industry as a whole may have elevated issues like a firm's Integrity and Reputation to higher levels of importance. When looking for a financial services provider, affluent customers prioritize these attributes above a firm's ability to achieve results or beat the benchmarks. But customers, once with a firm, are more likely to make decisions about whether to add or decrease funds with their firm based on their experience with how well their firm achieves results that match their objectives.

Financial services firms covered in the report include Bank of America, Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Smith Barney, and Wells Fargo. PKG has similar information on additional firms.

According to PKG's 2004 Financial Services Survey, 90% of all affluent customers say they “Always” look for Unquestioned Integrity in their financial services firms. A related measure, Respected Reputation, is also in the top 10 most important attributes. Customer service concerns, such as timely response and ease of communications, as well as experienced, competent staff round out the list of criteria affluent consumers look for in financial services firms.

However, the attribute that measures a firm's performance, Achieve results that match my objectives, is most strongly related to customer decisions to increase or decrease the funds they allocate to their primary provider of financial services. A firm's ability to deliver high levels of personalized service and how well and efficiently the firm is managed are also strongly related to customer decisions to add to or subtract funds from their financial services providers.

“Affluent financial services customers tell us they seek out integrity, reputation, responsiveness, and experience when they select their financial services provider,” said Denise Brien, VP Operations of Premium Knowledge Group. “But when we look at the consumer's ratings of his firm's performance on key measures and his intentions to adjust funds with his firm, we see which attributes are most predictive of the customer's intentions to increase or decrease business with the firm – and achieving results tops the list.”

In the paper, “How Affluent Consumers' Perceptions Impact 'Share of Wallet' and the Acquisition of New Business at Seven Major Financial Services Firms,” PKG presents the results of its analysis of several major firms along the attributes most important to affluent customers. The analysis finds that many firms do not meet customer expectations on key attributes, and many firms are vulnerable to losing business. Fidelity fared better than most, with higher than average performance ratings on several key measures, and nine times as many customers planning to increase their funds with the firm as decrease. But several national banks did not fare well, either in terms of performance on the most important attributes, or with customers, who planned to decrease their funds with their firm.

Analysis was based on a survey of 935 affluent households throughout 2004. Two thirds of PKG's survey respondents earn over $150,000 annually, and more than half have over $1M in investable assets.

For additional information on this analysis, how to buy the full report, or information regarding other PKG reports, contact Richard Baker at 214.540.8018 or visit http://www.premiumknowledge.net.

About Premium Knowledge Group:

Premium Knowledge Group (PKG) is a unique resource for marketers of premium/luxury goods to affluent consumers. PKG offers its clients proprietary databases tracking motivational data, brand preferences, brand consideration, and media preferences of affluent consumers; custom research of affluent consumers; and consulting and advisory services. Our surveys collect information about consumers' overall lifestyle and brand preferences in several categories that account for approximately 80% of the affluent wallet, including Automotive, Financial services/wealth management, Leisure travel, and Fashion and appearance.

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