Against a background of stock market turbulence and political unpredictability, financial advisors need to be the voice of reason for panicky clients. It’s simply part of their job — though they themselves may be struggling with market angst as well, says psychotherapist and performance coach Jonathan Alpert in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
His clients include advisors, traders, analysts and bankers. In 2012, Alpert kicked up a fuss with a controversial New York Times Opinion piece he penned headlined, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already.”
In the interview, the therapist, 47 (www.jonathanalpert.com), compares how veteran advisors and less seasoned FAs experience Donald Trump’s unorthodox presidential behavior and offers advice for upping advisors’ odds for success by becoming “fearless.”
Indeed, Alpert has authored an how-to book called “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” co-written with Alisa Bowman. The 2012 hardcover edition has been expanded and was just released in paperback (Center Street, Jan. 8, 2019).
A licensed therapist who early in his career worked briefly for the FBI, Alpert employs a goal-oriented program to help clients gain a healthy lifestyle and reach their potential.
In the interview, revisiting what he calls rampant marijuana use among Wall Street professionals, Alpert discusses the reason some of his advisor clients are trying earnestly to give up the habit. As for hard drugs, alcohol and massage parlors, consumption of these persists as part of Wall Street culture, he says.
ThinkAdvisor recently spoke with Alpert, on the phone from his New York City office. The conversation eventually turned to New Year’s resolutions, at which point he offered suggestions on how to boost the likelihood of achieving results.
Here are highlights of the interview:
THINKADVISOR: How are your financial advisor clients handling the market correction and volatility?
JONATHAN ALPERT: They feel the anxiety day to day. I’m trying to calm their anxieties and have them look at the bigger picture and not get taken down or become highly anxious by big drops in the market.
Are they saying that their clients are calling them in a panic?
They are. If there’s a bad day in the market, they’re getting anxious calls from clients: “What should I do? Should I change things around?” The advisors are having to be the voice of reason. But it’s part of their job to manage clients’ anxieties and expectations and to educate them. They should tell them that investing is a marathon — so let’s not get freaked out about one quarter, a bad week or a bad day of trading.
What’s the attitude on the part of financial advisors and traders about President Trump?
Generally, Wall Street seems to like Trump. They understand he’s not the most charming person in the world, but his policies seem to make sense to them. I find that the banking and finance industries aren’t as anti-Trump as other professions are. They have a better understanding of tariffs and trade; so they don’t necessarily see that as a problem. They understand that sometimes you have to take a few steps backward to go forward.
How do advisors perceive Trump as a person?
They see him as a brash New York businessman. He’s not the most well-mannered person, or even presidential. I tell advisors, and other clients, to try to separate the policy from the personality.
But Trump consistently generates angst over what will happen next.
He says things for reaction. I tell my clients in the financial industry that we’ve seen this before with him: There’s a day or two when he says something that dominates the headlines — but then it’s back to normal.
Is there a difference between the way veteran advisors and younger ones react to Trump?
The less seasoned advisors are more sensitive to some things going on in Washington, while the more seasoned are able to look at the big picture. That’s what they should remind their clients to do. The [veteran] advisors take [Trump’s behavior] with a grain of salt.
How does newer advisors’ “sensitivity” about what’s happening in Washington manifest?
They’re anxious. They feel the anxiety of their clients. But I think they’re able to eventually see that this is just Trump trying to dominate the headlines and get people talking.