Community Corner

Fidelity gives advisers trove of potential client names

 

 

 

The mutual fund giant, the second-largest provider of trading and investment services to clients of independent financial advisers, on Thursday released a Web-based trove of names and some contact information on more than 2.5 million wealthy individuals and 150,000 foundations and endowments.

The data come from over 3,000 publicly available sources, including Securities and Exchange Commission filings that show when highly compensated corporate employees exercise stock options.

The service, which free to advisers who custody assets with Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, can prompt advisers to ask existing clients about colleagues or people that sit with them on corporate boards, said David Canter, head of practice management at Fidelity.

The tool allows searches by location, employers, social and industry affiliations and other categories.

COMPETITORS

The database is the latest in a slew of offerings that Fidelity and other service providers are offering to attract independent advisers and their clients' assets.

TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. introduced a similar service in 2009, a spokeswoman said. Charles Schwab Corp., the largest custodian for independent advisers, does not have a referral tool (but like Fidelity does have a program that refers some wealthy clients of its brokerage to outside advisers.)

Bank of New York Mellon's Pershing LLC unit, a securities clearing firm with an affiliate that services independent advisers, did not respond to a request for comment.

ASKING FOR BUSINESS

Around 51 percent of an adviser's new business come from referrals, but only around 20 percent say they consistently ask clients for references, according to a recent Fidelity survey.

The firm tested the database with 200 of the approximately 3,000 registered investment advisers who use it to hold their clients' assets and execute their clients' trades.

The value of the database is a matter of some debate, and largely depends on an adviser's skills or willingness to manipulate the data, all of which comes from public sources.

Lee Munson, an Albuquerque, New Mexico-based independent adviser, said he sometimes uses the TD Ameritrade database to zero in on specific zip codes for marketing and advertising.

Warren Ward, an adviser in Columbus, Indiana who also uses TD Ameritrade as a custodian, said he is uncomfortable directly soliciting clients, even though much of his business comes through referrals.

The idea of cold-calling potential clients with the help of a database is even more distasteful, and in his calculation, counterproductive.

"I wouldn't accept a cold call from a siding salesperson, let alone from someone who wanted to make me rich," said Ward.

 

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