U.S. Retail Investor Products and Platforms 2021

Redefining Mass Customization

Better Align Portfolios with Investor Preferences

  • Learn how financial advice provider firms can optimize their strategies in designing and addressing retail investment platforms
  • Understand retail investors’ preferences with regard to direct investing platforms and the products they wish to use on them
  • Analyze annually updated investor market sizing, with age and wealth tier segmentations
  • Explore proprietary sizing of direct-to-investor platforms, including an updated leaderboard and underlying product sizing
  • Gain insight into the value of brands in investors’ decision making


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Report Retail Investor Products Detail

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Drew O'Hearn, CFP

Drew O'Hearn, CFP

Senior Director, Account Management


This report serves as Cerulli’s guidebook to optimizing firms’ strategies to designing and addressing retail investment platforms. It helps firms better understand retail investors’ preferences with regard to direct investing platforms and the products they wish to use on them.

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Each report is lead authored by a senior Cerulli analyst with significant industry experience. The report incorporates qualitative and quantitative inputs, based on Cerulli’s proprietary research process. For more on our research process, click here.

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A Note from the Author

Investors Want More Than an Algorithm from Advisors

Scott Smith

Scott Smith


Bio →

Scott Smith

Scott Smith


With more than 20 years of financial services industry experience, Scott leads Cerulli’s research efforts focused on investor behavior and advisory relationships. In his time at Cerulli, he has authored more than two dozen in-depth reports on topics ranging from wholesale distribution to digital advice platforms. His research helps Cerulli’s clients understand how to optimize their platforms given the evolving demand for financial advice.

Scott started his career wearing a headset at Putnam Investments’ service center in 1996, before moving to more strategic roles at MFS Investment Management starting in 2000, and then to Cerulli in 2007. In addition, he currently serves as member of the CFP Board’s Digital Advice Working Group, and as a judge for the Industry Awards.

Full biography here.

For investors seeking a true partner in their financial journeys, it is important that the advice they receive is tailored to them and not just a general recommendation offered to everyone with similar circumstances. This is particularly true during the advisor selection process. Affluent investors consistently cite transparency (58%) and finding a provider willing to commit the time (54%) necessary to understand their unique circumstances as the most important criteria in their consideration of new providers. Furthermore, investors rate receiving solutions customized to their needs and goals (44%) as just as important as portfolio performance (43%).

Investors want to know that the products and services they are receiving are optimized to help them achieve their personal goals, and while technology is a critical component of automation and personalization, very few investors (4%) express interest in purely digital platforms without human support. In the near term, Cerulli believes the most impactful digital tools will augment human advisors’ abilities to better connect with and guide personalized financial goals. 

Learn more in The Cerulli Report—U.S. Retail Investor Products and Platforms 2021: Redefining Mass Customization.

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