Customer satisfaction with financial advisors has slipped from last year, with Merrill Lynch trending toward the bottom across several financial services providers, according to a recent report.

The wirehouse dropped from a satisfaction score of 79 in 2018 to 77 in 2019, a 3% drop, “occupying the low end of the industry just as Merrill Edge does in online investment services,” according to a recent report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. But other advice firms also saw a drop in customer satisfaction.

For the first time in three years, since ACSI started tracking the metrics, consumers are happier with internet investment services than they are with financial advisors, according to the report, which surveyed 30,413 consumers. Annually, ACSI surveys around 300,000 consumers for satisfaction, with more than 400 companies in 46 industries.

Consumer satisfaction with advisors has slipped 1.3% to an ACSI score of 79, while satisfaction with internet investment services is now at 81, ACSI says.

Satisfaction with financial advisors’ mobile apps has dropped from 86 to 84 as far as quality and reliability, and ease of opening accounts has slipped 4% to 82, according to the report. Satisfaction with fees is at 78, with ACSI adding there could be “even more pressure on advisory fees” as a result of the race to zero commissions from firms such as Charles Schwab and Vanguard.

Finally, “frequency of personal contact via phone or in person” is considered by consumers to be the worst part of the advisory experience, ranking at 76, according to the report.

TD Ameritrade debuted in ACSI’s index in the financial advisor category at 77, ACSI says. Along with Merrill Lynch, TD rates “low when it comes to overall trust and confidence,” according to the report.


Four advice firms garnered ACSI scores of 80 or above, including Charles Schwab, which scored 82, as well as Raymond James and UBS, both tied at 80, ACSI says.

Independent fee-based advisors also scored 80, a 1% drop from the previous report. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Fidelity scored 79, unchanged from last year, ACSI says. LPL Financial was also unchanged at 78, according to the report.