A new annual study from J.D. Power and Associates shows that RBC Wealth Management ranks first compared to other firms in investor satisfaction.

The results of J.D. Power and Associates’ annual full-service investor satisfaction study are in and it shows that large wirehouses have some catching up to do compared to their peers when it comes to keeping clients happy.

RBC Wealth Management came in No. 1 for J.D. Power and Associates’ investor satisfaction ranking, scoring a total of 814 points on a 1,000 point scale, followed by Charles Schwab & Co. with 805 points, and Fidelity Investments, with 796 points. LPL Financial and Edward Jones followed, rounding out the top five with 794 points and 788 points, respectively.

“Being ranked highest in investor satisfaction for full-service brokerage firms by J.D. Power and Associates is a tremendous accomplishment, and a testament to the hard work of our talented financial advisors and the thousands of employees who support them,” RBC U.S. Wealth Management Chief Executive John Taft said in a statement. “Our goal is to be the best possible stewards of our clients’ assets, and these results validate our longstanding commitment to providing superior service to all of our valued clients.”

The industry average was 772 points, according to J.D. Power and Associates. Several other firms managed to top this benchmark including Raymond James with 785 points; Ameriprise Financial, 779; and UBS Financial Services, 778.

But some of the largest wirehouses fell below that average, with Merrill Lynch coming in with 758 points; Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, 754; and Wells Fargo Advisors, 746. Other firms that followed included Chase Investment Services, with 704 points, and Citigroup, 670.

The results of the study come after the company surveyed 4,200 investors who used an investment advisor’s service for some or all of their investment activity in March.

Most investors do not understand the difference between suitability and fiduciary standards, the study also showed. Eighty-five percent of the investors surveyed do not understand the difference between a fiduciary standard, which requires advisors to act on the best interest of clients and disclose conflicts of interest, and a suitability standard, where advisors are required to make investments that match their clients’ needs.

Of the investors who said they have a fiduciary relationship with their advisor, 57% said it has made them more comfortable, while 42% said it has made them less comfortable. Those results come as legislators are weighing the possible implementation of a uniform fiduciary standard for broker-dealers and investment advisors under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

“While higher levels of satisfaction are generally associated with clients in fiduciary relationships, legislating all advisors to this standard carries an unintended consequence of additional compliance oversight, which could translate into significantly higher costs – likely to ultimately be passed back to investors,” J.D. Power and Associates Director of Investment Services David Lo said in a statement.

J.D. Power and Associates’ study also found that online communication has increased when it comes to investing, with 51% of investors having e-mailed their advisor in 2011, compared to just 19% in 2008. Investors are also visiting investment firms’ websites more, most often to review documents their advisor, as well as tax information.


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