September 7, 2020

A new survey by St. James’s Place Wealth Management Asia revealed that over half of Singaporeans believe they could have achieved better investment outcomes in the past five years if they had engaged a financial adviser. This marks a changing shift in sentiment amid growing interest in retail investing and the emergence of new trends in the investment landscape such as robo-advisory services and digital brokerages.

While family continues to be an important source of financial advice, the survey finds a growing appetite for trusted advice amid increasing market volatility and continued improvement in industry standards. Four in five (81 per cent) Singaporeans now say they heavily prioritise seeking financial advice before making any major financial decisions and 70 per cent would consider engaging a financial adviser to manage investments on their behalf.

Over half (56 per cent) of respondents also rank financial advisers among their top three sources of financial guidance, ahead of websites and blogs (49 per cent), bankers (40 per cent) and family (38 per cent). The least sought- after sources of advice are financial advice books (25 per cent), investment seminars (16 per cent) and media (14 per cent).

The wealthier an individual is, the more likely they are to choose professional sources over familial ones. The top source of financial advice for Singaporeans with an annual household income of more than S$200,000 is financial advisers (28 per cent), followed by family (17 per cent) and bankers (14 per cent). For everyone else, the top sources are family (24 per cent), financial advisers (20 per cent) and bankers (13 per cent).

Women are also considerably more likely to seek financial advice from family members first (28 per cent), compared with men (18 per cent).

Gary Harvey, CEO, St. James’s Place Singapore, said: “There has been increasing interest in financial advice, as Singaporeans look for qualified, tailored expertise in a volatile landscape and seek to avoid making decisions based on emotion. However, underpinning this demand is a bedrock of tried and trusted advice from family, which also highlights just how important trusted relationships are in making major financial decisions.”

The top areas where Singaporeans indicate they need more financial advice are in investments (87 per cent), property and mortgages (80 per cent) and retirement planning (78 per cent).

Of the respondents who did receive financial advice, an overwhelming 98 per cent found it to be useful and 86 per cent say the advice they received was tailored to their needs.

Performance (34 per cent) and fees (30 per cent) take a back seat to honesty (63 per cent) as the most important trait for respondents to consider when choosing a professional financial adviser to work with.

For those who have not engaged a trusted financial adviser, the main barriers to this include perceptions that fees are too expensive (57 per cent), that respondents can manage their own investments (51 per cent), and that they don’t trust someone else to manage their money (41 per cent).

Harvey added, “Today, trustworthiness and professionalism of advice has taken on greater importance with increased standards and scrutiny over how we operate. This is something that those in financial services welcome and an area where we must continuously evolve to better support clients and advisers. We see more people willing to pay for advice, provided it is grounded in expertise and tailored to their personal interests.”

In spite of the rapid rise of robo-advisory platforms, almost all Singaporeans (94 per cent) say receiving face-to-face financial advice is important to them.

Over half (53 per cent) prefer to engage with a financial adviser and almost a third (32 per cent) consult with their banker first. Only 12 per cent say that robo-advisory platforms are their preferred mode of advice. This trend is slightly more prominent within the older generations, as 56 per cent of those aged between 40-54 prefer engaging first with a financial adviser, compared with 36 per cent of those aged 25-39. This is likely due to the generally less complex financial affairs of younger people.