The overall numbers illustrating the advisor industry look positive, but a deeper dive shows a tough situation for bank advisors. While the markets are doing well—better than many people realize—the fact remains that the gains in recent years have eluded most of your clients. In fact, they have eluded most people except for those at the very top of the economic food chain.

That’s just one interpretation of Tiburon Strategic Advisors CEO Summit in New York Monday and Tuesday. Tiburon’s Managing Partner Chip Roame delivered the keynote speech, “The Future of Wealth Management.” And as usual, it was a lightning-fast analysis of finance with a smattering of politics and sports tossed in for good measure.

In a sense, it was an exploration of the differences between “macro” and “micro” and why one looks good at the moment but the other is more relevant to you.

First, the good news. Wealth management, broadly speaking, is seeing impressive growth. In fact, Roame said that the only other area of finance that comes close would be payments. (See our complete story on the conference here.)

Now for the bad. “Broadly speaking” is a frustratingly vague term. And most of your clients are not likely to be among the economic winners of late.

To understand that, you must consider the context of all the data, the story behind the numbers, Roame said. Case in point: Total consumer wealth fell dramatically in the wake of the financial crisis, but it is now back to its pre-crisis levels, $66.1 trillion. But the caveat that the bar chart didn’t convey is wealth distribution. The gains from 2008 to 2012 went to the top 5% of the country. The remaining 95%, which in all likelihood includes all of your clients, are poorer today, Roame said.

The same overall picture emerges on the debt side. In aggregate, Americans hold $13.5 trillion in liabilities, which doesn’t look so bad compared to the $79.5 trillion in aggregate assets. Those numbers combined lead to the $66.1 trillion in total wealth, and certainly do not suggest an over-leveraged population. But, again, the devil in these details is the distribution. The lower income segment is where most of that debt lives, and many of those people are indeed over-leveraged.

The ugly part of the financial industry is the sheer level of malfeasance. Roame began his presentation by saying that trends in this industry are very slow-moving taking months or years to develop. And the biggest trend lately is seeing who has been convicted, he said. This is not specific to advisors, certainly, but it does magnify the trust issue that advisors face every day.

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