Dimensional’s Investor Insights Survey: A Brainy No-Brainer

© Can Stock Photo / ivelinradkov

Sometimes, it’s hard to decide. Especially if you’re like me and you overthink every little thing. (Just ask my husband.)

Then there are the occasional no-brainers. For example, for some time, I’d been reading our local newspaper online, recycling the print versions untouched. One day, I finally inquired about changing from “Print + Digital” to “Digital Only.” Not only was the switch going to cut our monthly bill in half, it would save a ton of trees. Duh … and now done.

This summer, while attending a Dimensional Fund Advisors workshop in Portland, Oregon, I encountered another no-brainer decision that seemed just as obvious as my digital change-over. I’m talking about Dimensional’s annual Global Investor Insights Survey.

With three surveys under their belt and the next one just released, here are some of the reasons firms that are incorporating Dimensional’s fund line-up for the core of their clients’ portfolios should consider participating every time:

  • Data Points of Distinction. The survey results are helping advisors like you affix solid numbers to how differently you’re serving your own clients compared to the typical run-around most investors experience (which, hint hint, can be incorporated into your marketing materials).
  • Client Appreciation. The current survey is designed to be delivered as a tailored reach-out between you and your clients, letting you demonstrate how much you value their candid feedback.
  • Opportunity Identification. If there are weak spots worth tending to in your service offering, the survey may help you find those as well.
  • Breaking news. Each year, Dimensional has been refining and modifying its survey to explore new and different avenues. Even if you’ve already participated, each round should yield new insights.

Horse, Meet Water

Why would an evidence-based advisor not participate? Beats me. And yet, when our summer conference hosts asked the room of several hundred attendees who had participated in last year’s survey, I was surprised more hands weren’t raised.

Maybe it’s a matter of time. It’s easy to get so busy on the daily details, even excellent opportunities can slip through the cracks.

To learn more, I reached out to Dimensional’s Head of Advisor Communication Jake DeKinder, who shared with me some of the highlights from past surveys, as well as a preview of some of the newest concepts they’ll be rolling out soon.

In 2015, the survey’s first year, Dimensional crafted the questions, but outsourced the initiative itself. Participants included a random sampling of U.S. investors working with advisors across the industry

After 2015, Dimensional brought the operation in-house. They narrowed participants to Dimensional investors only and, in 2017, broadened the outreach by taking the survey global. They also added the ability for firms to compare specific advisor performance across a firm, and to segment client types.

A comment from Jeff Pierce, Dimensional’s Head of Advisor Practice Management, provides a bit more background as to why Dimensional launched the survey in the first place:

“The investor feedback survey was created as a tool to help firms discover how their clients perceive their firm. Participating advisors have learned why and how their clients chose them, what clients expect from an advisory relationship, and how they perceive the value of advice. Ultimately, this information should help advisors deliver an even better client experience.”

Survey Says …

From what I learned at this summer’s conference, one of the most interesting results came in 2015, year one of the survey, when the audience was a broad collection of investors working with advisors across the industry.

A powerful message emerged: When asking industry-wide investors how they measured their advisor’s worth, the #1 answer was “Investment Returns.” In 2016, when the same question was posed only to Dimensional investors, the #1 choice was “Sense of Security/Peace of Mind,” while “Investment Returns” dropped to the #4 choice.

That strikes me as a big differentiator. When the survey went global, another important insight was how consistent the outcomes were everywhere. This tells us it probably doesn’t matter which regulations govern an investor’s actions or which domestic market they’re in. Dimensional investors seem to be finding similar value in their advisor relationships, no matter where they call home.

A Sneak Preview

Looking ahead, DeKinder shared a couple of interesting twists in store for 2018–2019, as part of the initiative just launched.

First, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, the plan is to offer advisors a set of core questions, as well as a mix-and-match bank of optional ones. Each firm can then tailor its survey to best suit its client base.

Also, instead of conducting the survey during a single timeframe, there will be three different fielding periods across three quarters. “We want to see if there’s seasonality in the data, or changes in response to any big global events,” says DeKinder. Not that anyone is predicting anything, mind you. Leave it to a data wonk like Dimensional to want to thoroughly stress test its survey results!

Last year, Dimensional’s survey included eight countries, more than 400 participating firms and almost 19,000 respondents. The firm collaborates with each participating advisor to put together a meaningful survey, with announcements coming directly from the advisor (based on a multipronged package of resources Dimensional provides). The data gathered is anonymous and private.

So, Dimensional firms, have I enticed you to raise your hand now that the next round of surveys is underway? Take it from me, a major over-thinker: This one’s a brainy no-brainer.