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New IAA Survey: Adviser Executives Optimistic About Business Prospects, Economy

August 1, 2018


For the IAA:
Herb Perone
For Cerulli Associates:
Karleen Fallon


Washington, DC (August 1, 2018) – Executives at IAA member firms appear optimistic about their business prospects and plan to increase headcount this year. In the 2018 Executive Outlook Survey – the second in a series of annual surveys measuring and tracking business sentiment among advisory firm executives – nearly 80 percent of respondents said they plan to grow their workforces over the next 12 months.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64.7 percent) plan to grow their headcounts by up to 10 percent, while 14.7 percent said they plan to increase their staffs by more than 10 percent. Moreover, the majority of respondents view focusing on the hiring, training, and retention of talent as key – it ranks among the top three strategic priorities, measures of profitability, and areas to receive increased budgetary resources.

The annual Executive Outlook Survey is a joint project of the IAA and Cerulli Associates, a Boston-based research firm specializing in worldwide asset management and distribution analytics.

Another key measure of executive optimism: 57 percent of participants whose clients are individuals expect their firms to increase AUM over the next three years. Fifty-nine percent of participants with institutional clients expect their AUM to increase over the same period.

While the survey found that executives’ overall outlook is positive, it also identified several areas of rising concern. Asked to rate their level of concern regarding external factors over the next two years, participating executives identified cybersecurity (97 percent moderately or very concerned); potential significant market crisis (95 percent; the domestic regulatory environment (85 percent); fee compression (83 percent); the country’s international relations (74 percent); the non-U.S. regulatory environments (58 percent); tax reform (43 percent); globalization (43 percent); and Brexit (35 percent).

Asked to prioritize technology investments over the next 12 months, participants identified improving cybersecurity (a moderate or high priority for 91.4 percent of participants); updating older technology (82.8 percent); implementing regulatory/reporting requirements (77.1 percent); improving data management/analytics (77.1 percent); improving digital content (62.9 percent); maximizing resource allocation and distribution opportunities, such as client segmenting and predictive analytics (62.8 percent); artificial intelligence/data innovation (36.4 percent); and building or improving social media marketing strategy (48.6 percent).

Executives were virtually unanimous in identifying development of the next generation of talent as the most important initiative for ensuring firm profitability. Fully 97.2 percent identified talent development as important – with 54.3 percent calling it “very important” and another 42.9 percent calling it “moderately important.” Other priority initiatives included increasing scale (91.4 percent); improving the firm’s service model (85.8 percent); reducing costs (80 percent); and compensation analysis and adjustments (60 percent).

The 2018 Executive Outlook Survey is available on the IAA’s website at Publications >> Executive Outlook Survey.


About the Investment Adviser Association

The Investment Adviser Association (IAA) is the leading trade association representing the interests of SEC-registered investment adviser firms. The IAA’s more than 640 member firms collectively manage assets in excess of $20 trillion for a wide variety of institutional and individual investors. For more information, visit or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.


About Cerulli Associates

Headquartered in Boston with offices in London and Singapore, Cerulli Associates is a global research and consulting firm that provides financial institutions with guidance in strategic positioning and new business development. Our analysts blend industry knowledge, original research, and data analysis to bring perspective to current market conditions and forecasts for future developments.

Cerulli’s research product line includes the Cerulli Report series, The Cerulli Edge series, and Cerulli Lodestar. For more information, visit

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