Advisors are missing opportunities to expand existing relationships and attract wealthy clients, according to a survey by ByAllAccounts, an account aggregator in Woburn, Mass.

The survey found that 75% of wealthy investors’ advisors haven’t asked them for a referral in at least a year, and only 38% of investors say their advisor proactively reaches out to them when changes in the market could impact their portfolios.

Communication, or lack of it, is a leading cause of client defection, the survey says, and one-third of investors have changed advisors since 2008. Another 25% of wealthy investors are either neutral or dissatisfied with their current advisor.

“The one thing that came out of this is that the high net worth want advisors to be more proactive and communicate more,” said Cynthia Stephens, director of marketing at ByAllAccounts. “Advisors need to think about client relationships from a marketing perspective, focusing on keeping their existing clients. The need to over-communicate came out loud and clear. You build loyalty by over-servicing your clients.”

It’s a common enough message, and yet investors consistently complain that their advisors are ignoring them. In fact, a separate study by Barclays Wealth in New York, the eleventh of its Insights series, says investors are starting to take things into their own hands. At 44%, almost half of wealthy investors are now reviewing their accounts more frequently, and almost one-fourth of investors spend as much as five hours per week directing their own trades. At 60%, most of these wealthy investors are primarily concerned with wealth preservation, and around half of investors have cut their exposure to high risk/high reward investments. Only 31% believe the U.S. economy is stabilizing.

On a positive note, amid all the turmoil, advisors still have an important role to play, says Matt Brady, Barclays Wealth’s head of wealth advisory for the Americas. “High-net-worth investors can’t be certain of returns so they feel they have to be more attentive,” he says. “But at the same time they haven’t rejected their advisors. They’re less likely to trust blindly now, but they’re still open to advice.”

Two thirds of Canadian high-net-worth investors in the 2010 iShares High-Net-Worth Investors Survey are acting similarly. Uncertainty has created opportunity, and three-quarters of wealthy Canadian investors see a market ripe with opportunity. They’re just not sure how to tap it, which is where advisors come in—more than three-fourths of wealthy Canadians say they turned to financial advisors for at least some help in the decision-making process.

“It’s good news for advisors,” said Mary Anne Wiley, managing director and head of iShares distribution in Canada. “Clients are seeing opportunity, but what also came out of the study is that they don’t know where or how to take advantage of it.”

Investors specifically want guidance on risk management plus new investment management ideas. “Coming out of the recession they’re definitely more cautious,” Wiley said. “But they also have a thirst for new ideas.”


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