A majority of executives at IAA investment advisory member firms appear confident about their business prospects and plan to increase headcount this year. In the 2017 Executive Outlook Survey – the first in an annual series of surveys measuring and tracking business sentiment among IAA member executives – 63 percent said they plan to grow their workforces over the next 12 months. More than half (56 percent) plan to grow by up to 10 percent, while seven percent said they plan to increase their staffs by more than 10 percent.
The annual Executive Outlook Survey is a joint project of the Investment Adviser Association (IAA) and Cerulli Associates, a Boston-based research and consulting firm specializing in worldwide asset management and distribution analytics.
While the survey found that executives’ overall outlook for 2017 is positive, it also identified several areas of rising concern.
Cybersecurity and the changing regulatory environment were the top areas of concern for executives. Fully 97 percent cited cybersecurity, while 93 percent pointed to the regulatory environment. Other areas of significant concern included the possibility of a significant market crisis (83 percent), and fee compression (62 percent).
The majority put a priority on near-term investments in technology to address cybersecurity concerns (89 percent), to improve data management and analytics (76 percent), and to implement regulatory/reporting requirements (76 percent).
Curiously, executives were split on the new DOL fiduciary rule, whose future is now in doubt. More than a third – 38 percent – saw it as the single biggest opportunity for increasing business over the next 12 months, while 21 percent cited it as a significant threat to business. Similarly, 31 percent saw robo/digital advice platforms as a threat, while 17 percent saw it as an opportunity.
Executives were virtually unanimous in identifying development of the next generation of talent as the most important initiative for ensuring firm profitability. Full 98 percent identified talent development as important – with 58 percent calling it “very important” and another 40 percent calling it “moderately important.”