Advisor | February 2021
The first Single Register of Financial Promoters (as financial advisors were called back then) saw the light in 1991. Desired by ANASF, the Single Register represented an exceptional result and the starting point of a long journey that marked the evolution of the figure of the financial advisor.
In 1991, less than three million clients were assisted by financial advisors. Currently, almost 5 million clients (+66%) are assisted by a financial advisor and the amount of assets under management has increased almost tenfold.
However, numbers alone are not enough to explain the evolution of the figure of the financial advisor. A quote by Steve Jobs describes the spirit which used to animate the pioneers of financial consultancy in the early 70s: “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the Navy”.
Rather than pirates, early financial promoters used to be privateers. The difference is quite significant: privateers were on board of merchant ships and acted with a mandate from the king who gave them a letter of marque allowing them to defend themselves in case of unforeseen assault during navigation.
On the other hand, pirates acted illegally – they left the merchant ship where they worked, and they spent their time assaulting and sinking any ship they came across.
In 1991 the average age of financial promoters used to be 30 years old. They were promising youngsters, hungry and foolish – “stay foolish stay hungry,” remarked Steve Jobs.
They faced unexplored lands, but also widespread mistrust and lack of knowledge. We need only recall that, back then, several Italian investors mistook mutual funds for plots of land.
The luckiest among them could count on a range of products including ten products at most.
However, the privateer spirit of early financial advisors allowed them to survive the big waves of finance and a market that has gradually learnt to appreciate them.
Today the average age of financial advisors is over 50 years old and the issues they deal with pertain to the entire patrimonial domain of their clients (investments, illiquid goods, protection and credit),
Moreover, the relationship with the bank/network has evolved over the years: today the success of the profession is based on the duo financial professional-bank/network.
According to clients, the figure of the FA is their main source of satisfaction (75% of them are fully satisfied), but the importance of the bank/network has increased enormously in terms of solidarity and reliability (+45% in 20 years); similarly, technology is becoming crucial for guaranteeing efficiency (+34% in the last twelve months).
As compared to thirty years ago, there is less and less space for lone wolves among those who chose to operate with a mandate. Many among the most accomplished financial professionals work in teams, supported by their bank/network which provides them with a highly effective equipment.
Continuing education and skills certificates have become essential elements; banks/networks have always invested in them and have never spared resources or energy.
Today, financial advisors are more similar to naval officers than privateers. The route and the employment rules are defined together with the bank/network, while sailing is still completely in their hands.