There are about 18 million "mass affluent" households in the United States and a full 34% of them -- 20 per existing RIA rep -- does not have an advisor, Fidelity says.
Most of these families -- 4 million -- would be willing to hire a professional advisor to manage their $100,000 to $1 million in liquid assets.
Another 4 million are using an advisor but would consider switching, Fidelity says.
Fidelity urges its affiliates to take a three-step approach to this market.
First, it's critical for an RIA firm to retain the mass affluent clients it already has. Develop these clients as their financial outlook evolves, but avoid dumping them to chase higher-end accounts. Staff up and use technology instead to serve them more efficiently.
Second, court those 4 million who don't have an advisor but would consider working with one.
Third, prospect those who aren't perfectly happy with an existing advisor.
These accounts may not be as big as the millionaire clients everyone in the industry wants. But they tend to be a lot younger -- many under 40 -- and so they have a lot longer to grow.
Rule of thumb: the younger the accounts, the more your business is worth to a potential buyer.