Investors are confident about two things. First, they think they're in control of their financial future. Second, they generally believe their investment advisers deliver value.
But when it comes to how the cogs turn through the whole investment industry machine, these same people are highly distrustful, according to a report by the Investment Industry Association of Canada (IIAC).
A survey of more than 1,000 investors working with a financial adviser found they increasingly believe their adviser adds value beyond the market's performance – 77 per cent agreed in late 2012, up from less than 60 per cent in 2011. An even higher number of people report they have a high level of trust in their primary adviser.
But while 86 per cent of respondents feel in control of their financial futures, they're very skeptical of the system that's going to earn them that money. It seems the memories of Lehman Brothers' collapse and the Great Recession haven't faded.
Of those polled, only one third of people expressed trust in the financial system as a whole. "This highlights how easy it is for us to 'trust' the person with whom we have a personal connection and yet mistrust the collective," the IIAC notes.
So what accounts for this disparity?
Ian Russell, chief executive officer of the IIAC, suggested it could be the difference between personal experience and second-hand information.
"When it comes to assessing their own adviser and their own adviser's firm, investors base their opinion on personal experience," he said in a recent speech in Toronto. On top of their returns, that involves rapport built over investment advice, multi-generational planning and estate planning.
"But when they are asked to rate the industry as a whole, they fall back on the only reference points they have," he said. That would include tales of the financial crisis and corporations behaving badly. The text messages released in the settlement between Royal Bank of Scotland and U.S. regulators are one recent example. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services getting sued for ratings assigned to mortgage-backed bonds is another.
The study is about trust and loyalty – not investment returns. But interestingly, the survey found more people say they're paying for the monitoring of their goals and plan than the performance of their investments.
(Jacqueline Nelson is a Globe and Mail Financial Services Reporter.)
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