A new survey by St. James’s Place Wealth Management Asia (SJP) has revealed over half of Singaporeans (51%) believe they could have achieved better investment outcomes in the past five years if they had engaged a financial adviser.

This comes amid growing interest in retail investing and the emergence of new tools in the investment landscape such as digital brokerages and robo-advisory services.

The survey interviewed a total of 2,064 respondents in Singapore and Hong Kong who were between 25 to 54 years old. The participants held personal investments in stocks, property, shares, funds, and other assets, and were from households with a minimum annual income of $70,000 to over $250,000.

Of the respondents, some 1,045 were Singaporeans.

In a statement released on August 6, the survey revealed that while family continues to be an important source of financial advice, there is a growing appetite for trusted advice amid increasing market volatility and continued improvement in industry standards.

Over four in five (81%) Singaporeans now say they heavily prioritise seeking financial advice before making any major financial decisions, and 70% would consider engaging a financial adviser to manage investments on their behalf.

About 56% of respondents rank financial advisers as their top source of financial guidance, ahead of websites and blogs (49%), bankers (40%) and family (38%). Conversely, the media, at 14%, ranked last. Financial advice books and investment seminars at 25% and 16% rounded up the bottom three sources of information.

SJP also noted that 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 $200,000 is financial advisers (28%), followed by family (17%) and bankers (14%). 

For everyone else, the top sources are family, followed by financial advisers, then bankers.

The top areas where Singaporeans indicate they need more financial advice are in investments, property and mortgages and retirement planning.

SJP said of the respondents who did receive financial advice, an overwhelming 98% found it to be useful, and 86% said the advice they received was tailored to their needs.

Some 63% of respondents also preferred honesty as the most important trait in a professional adviser to work with, ahead of performance (34%) and fees (30%).

The survey also found that those who have not engaged a financial adviser have cited barriers such as expensive fees. Others feel they can manage their own investments (51%), and others don’t trust a third party to manage their money (41%).

Seeking advice in person preferred

Interestingly, in spite of the increase in robo-advisory platforms, which provide better access to investments, the majority of Singaporeans surveyed (94%) still prefer receiving face-to-face financial advice.

Only 12% of the respondents say that robo-advisory platforms are their preferred mode of advice.

SJP also found that the trend of seeking face-to-face advice is slightly more prominent amongst older respondents, with 56% of them aged between 40 to 54 years old prefer engaging with a financial adviser before making any financial decisions, compared to the national average of 53%. 

In contrast, only 36% of respondents aged between 25 to 39 years old say they prefer face-to-face advice with their financial advisers. 

Almost a third (32%) of Singaporeans say they would also consult with their banker before making any decisions.

SJP says that the preference for the human touch among the older generation is likely due to the generally less complex financial affairs of younger respondents.