The market’s wild ride in the last few weeks has created extra work for advisors—who have spent a lot of time reassuring panicky clients about their investments.
What are advisors and other finance professionals advising clients to do?
Fund managers such as Brian Lazorishak, senior portfolio manager for the Chase Mid-Cap Growth Fund (CHAMX) and Chase Growth Fund (CHASX), are calming fears by shifting toward less economically sensitive stocks with more predictable and defensive earnings patterns.
“The reason we have a disciplined approach is to offset the ego and emotion that’s involved in the market,” said Lazorishak (whose firm, Chase Investment Counsel Corp. of Charlottesville, Va., is unaffiliated with JPMorgan Chase & Co.).
“Even sophisticated investors can panic and pull out at the wrong time. We tell clients that we stay process-driven without getting too caught up in the economic news. We also remind them that they’ve set equity ranges based on their risk tolerances,” says Lazorishak, noting that stocks across a wide range of sectors and asset classes have been “highly correlated with each other.” In other words, he says, a mid-cap U.S. consumer stock like Dollar Tree is seeing the same market movements as a European bank during this period of volatility.
And wealth management firms such as Genworth Financial Wealth Management have launched full-scale special communications programs that include panel calls for advisors.
“The goal of the panel call with advisors was to frame how our platform is positioned to help them manage their clients, but then to also offer them access to portfolio managers or strategists to provide insight on the global economy and markets,” said Mike Abelson, Genworth’s senior vice president in charge of asset allocation strategies.
As for the members of the fee-only National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, NAPFA advisors serving both institutional and individual investors also are urging clients to stay calm and to remember that their portfolios are planned to withstand the storms of market volatility.
Based on a round-up of NAPFA members’ emailed responses that AdvisorOne received this week in an informal poll, here’s what advisors say they are doing to advise their clients during this time of turmoil:
Donald Askey, certified financial planner, Provident Advisory Group, Newburyport, Mass.
Askey said his firm sent two e-messages to its 100-plus clients this past Friday and the Thursday before. The messages urged clients not to act on emotion, and reminded them that Provident is taking small steps to strengthen allocation at this time of low prices. No selling would be done without a sit-down and re-evaluation of the client’s big picture, he said.
In one of the messages, Provident told clients: “As your financial adviser, we are not only sensitive to your concerns about recent turmoil in the market but we are also responsible for providing you objective advice…. If you believe that your investments are inappropriate for you for whatever reason and that you are no longer on the course we charted together for you, then we urge you to come in and we’ll spend the time you deserve and determine whether a course correction is in your best long-term interests right now.”
Rett Dean, principal, Riverchase Financial Planning, Lewisville, Texas
“Proactivity is the key,” Dean said. “We called and spoke with all clients last week while the markets were so volatile.
“We reminded them of a couple of things: 1) This is why we diversity holdings. 2) Because we do not do dollar-based retirement planning but rather goals-based planning we could stay focused on what was most important to the client. 3) Time Frame. Many clients see reaching retirement as the finish line, when in fact it’s really just the beginning. We have to keep clients well allocated so that the years of retirement are not impacted long term by making emotion based short term moves.”
John Gugle, principal, Alpha Financial Advisors, Charlotte, N.C.
Normally, Gugle sends a client letter the first of every month, but with the recent events in global investment markets, he “felt it was imperative to get my thoughts out to all of my clients” and sent a letter on Aug. 11.
“My advice is that this is not a repeat of 2008 and that we are simply experiencing a slight slowdown in growth, but not a full-fledged recession,” Gugle said. “I point to continued M&A activity as well as a report last week that insider buying was at its highest level since March 2009. I also laid the blame for the extreme volatility on the high-frequency computer trading programs. That is what was causing huge intraday shifts, which undermines retail investors’ confidence, much like the flash crash of May 2010.
“When investors cannot comprehend what is going on in the markets, they blame the system and become convinced that the investment markets are rigged. Sadly 2008 was such an extreme event in the market that many of my clients are skeptical of the recovery and seem to get anxious over the slightest bad news.”
For younger investors, Gugle noted, he has been advocating this pullback as an excellent buying opportunity if they have excess cash available for investment.