How are you doing? Are you all right? It’s my sincere hope that you and your loved ones are well and safe at home.
These are tough times, and the scope of the current situation—the market decline, the pandemic, the school closures, the shelter-in-place orders—is really without precedent. You are financial advisors, but you’re human, too, and you have the same worries for your families’ health and well-being as your clients do. Many of you may also have the worries of small business owners everywhere, about meeting payroll and other obligations when there’s a decline in revenue.
And can we say busy? I’ve talked to many advisors over the past weeks, and they are working all hours of the day (and night) answering client questions and concerns. For the most part, clients aren’t panicking about market volatility, but they do need reassurance from their advisor that they are making the right decisions. What financial advisors do on a day-to-day basis is always important, but never more so than right now.
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This is your time
This is when having a financial plan in place offers guidance and reassurance to investors and lets them feel good, knowing they have a way to move forward. This is when having a financial advisor to talk to can make all the difference in the world to someone’s future financial security. Advisors can help reassure clients who are on an emotional roller-coaster and keep them on track for their long-term goals, which probably haven’t changed even though it seems like everything else has. People still want to retire, send children to college, buy a home or a vacation home, and take care of their families.
A Vanguard research report from 2019, Quantifying Your Value to Clients, concluded that advisors add about 150 bps to clients’ returns solely based on the behavioral coaching they do. (Working with a financial advisor adds about 3 percent to the overall return, including all aspects of behavioral coaching and portfolio and wealth management guidance.) The study states that “arguably one of the most challenging roles of an advisor is to help clients stick to their financial plans when their emotions run high.”
I’m guessing that your clients’ emotions are indeed running high right about now. Your clients—and prospects—need your services. But most important, they need to hear from you.
This is your time
Advisors should communicate with clients regularly and set expectations so that clients know how and when their advisor will be in touch. If clients knew you’d send an email update or video on a particular day and time, it might cut down on the phone calls to your office. The simple act of being proactive really matters. A 2017 Vanguard report, Advisor Relationships and Changing Advice Requirements, found that four of the five things that matter most to clients are related to communication.
- Returning phone calls promptly
- Responding to emails in a timely manner
- Proactively contacting the client
- Providing the client with good advice
- Portfolio performance
You’ve known all along that it’s important to communicate with clients, but you might not have realized just how crucial it is, especially in turbulent markets. I fully understand how difficult it can be to talk to clients right now, but believe me when I say there is no better use of your time for the health and well-being of your practice.
And don’t feel you have to call clients and talk only about the markets. In fact, you shouldn’t. A lot is going on in people’s lives right now, and clients might be much more worried about things other than their portfolio. Certainly, the health of their loved ones is a chief concern. But anyone with children—whether K–12 or college age—now has to cope with them 24/7. What has that been like for the family? What happens with online learning, SATs, proms, sports, scholarships, and graduations? What about older parents they can’t visit? You probably have clients worried about losing their jobs, and certainly, any business owner you work with is feeling the impact of the shelter-in-place policies in effect.
Here are a few ideas you might want to try with your clients:
- Contact any of your senior clients who live alone and ask if they need anything. Widows and widowers might feel particularly isolated and could be low on necessary supplies. Offer to place an online order for them, or, if possible, pick up their items for them at the store. Any offer of assistance will be appreciated, even if they don’t need to take you up on it.
- Touch base with your business owner clients and find out their key concerns. If they have a retail business, consider buying gift cards to their store or service, and encourage others to do the same. Any cash flow will help with a short-term financial, and you can use the gift cards later with clients or friends. Consider sharing this supportive idea on your LinkedIn or other social media pages or even on your town’s website.
- Share positive stories or news that moves you. In these days of isolation, people are looking to feel connected to one another, so find something that you think your clients will also appreciate. You might invite your clients to listen to the Berklee College of Music students who put together a touching virtual video from their homes. Or, have them check out John Krasinki’s new 15-minute segment, Some Good News. You’ll be inspired, and your clients will be, too.
You probably have communication ideas of your own. If you get stuck at any time, though, just ask a simple question: how are you doing? Your care and concern will be long remembered when the stresses of these days are forgotten. This is your time.
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared in the Financial Planning Association’s Practice Management Blog on April 16, 2020.