The mass affluent represent an ample opportunity for retail banks, if banks can figure out how to reach them, according to a report from HNW Inc.

Of 422 mass affluent individuals surveyed, 76% said they do not use their primary bank for investment or brokerage accounts, according to the report released by the integrated marketing and technology firm on Wednesday.

In fact, 78% have never even considered using their primary bank for investment or brokerage services. Of those, 81% said that was because they already have such accounts elsewhere and 42% said they did not think their primary bank was the best option for those services.

The mass affluent were represented in this study by respondents who are primary or shared decision makers with $100,000 to $3 million in liquid investable assets. But not much of it stays with the bank.

"The mass affluent are keeping very limited assets with the bank, despite the fact that it is their primary bank," said Leslie Paladin, HNW's senior vice president and managing director of retail banking.

This is reflected in the "low level of footings-less than $50,000, even when their moveable assets total as much as $3 million," according to the report.

Herein lies the opportunity for banks.

There are obstacles to getting the mass affluent to do more than basic money management at their retail bank.

Perhaps the most difficult one to surmount is the consumer perception of retail banks and bank advisors. Fifty-four percent did not know that bank benefits and services would increase with their asset level. Some didn't even know their bank offered investment or brokerage services.

To capture these assets, Paladin said banks must clearly and tangibly demonstrate their services. The mass affluent are essentially telling banks, "Give me a reason to bring more," she said.

As far as bank advisors, 30% of those surveyed said they did not trust using the investment advisor at their primary bank and 49% said they agree with the statement that a bank-based financial advisor "is just interested in sales and does not have my needs and interests top of mind."

"There's an idea that bank advisors are not the A-team," said Stacey Haefele, HNW's chief executive officer.

But HNW's report also looks at how the mass affluent see themselves, not just their banks.

Most respondents said they think of themselves as savers and they have specific financial goals, but they don't think of themselves as particularly wealthy said Haefele.

And that's because, as Haefele noted,"The definition of what it means to be rich is only going north."

Today, "Five million dollars is barely high-net worth. $20 million is the beginning of high-net worth. What about $1-5 million or even $250,000 to $500,000? $100,000 to $3 million? 10 years ago, that was high-net worth," Haefele said.

Though that level of wealth is now often considered mass affluent, "Nobody knows what to do with them," said Haefele.

But if banks can figure it out, they'll be in luck. "Is there still opportunity?" asked Paladin. "Yes. Huge, wide open opportunity."

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