It goes without saying that we are living in extraordinary times. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, and the ensuing local, state and federal measures to contain it, have left many people scared and isolated, and significantly disrupted business operations across industries.
Financial advisors are among the millions of Americans working from home and conducting meetings over video conference to ensure the health and well-being of clients and employees — and depending on where they live, unable to travel far from home or subject to curfews. And on top of that, school closings require them to supervise and care for their children while managing professional responsibilities and watching the markets.
With some commentators predicting a global recession, and general uncertainty about how long the present crisis will last, it’s easy to become scared. And if even veteran wealth managers and market experts are scared, the investors who rely on them are also scared. Fear, stress, uncertainty, inconvenience, wall-to-wall news reporting and wild market volatility are a dangerous mixture, especially if investors must temporarily close their businesses and are running low on toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other items that weren’t so scarce just two weeks ago.
At times like this, advisors play a critical role in calming investors, and preventing them from making harmful decisions in the heat of the moment. From home, advisors can utilize FaceTime, Skype, or videoconferencing solutions such as Zoom or WebEx to check in with clients on a daily basis to ask how they and their families are holding up, and discuss market developments and their impact on clients’ investment portfolios. During these discussions, advisors can reassure clients and review financial plans, which should include previously agreed-upon strategies and procedures for navigating market volatility. For example, advisors can remind clients during this time that, as they discussed when crafting their financial plans, no executions for trades should be made without the consent of both the client and the advisor.
When you’re isolated and afraid, seeing the comforting face of a trusted partner who is legitimately concerned about your well-being goes a very long way. Personally checking in with clients each day using the above-mentioned video communication tools during this public health crisis is crucial for maintaining strong advisor/client relationships.
But other digital solutions are also at advisors’ disposal to assist clients — and to enable advisors to effectively conduct business operations while working from home — during this time. For example, some modern financial planning technology platforms include cutting-edge conferencing tools to allow advisors to walk clients through different scenarios and potential outcomes of prospective trades. In addition, advisors can encourage clients to undertake self-directed planning workflows through client portals in financial planning platforms, and then utilize the data input from clients to better understand their mindsets and tailor conversations to address their concerns.
Furthermore, advisors can produce daily video commentary and recommendations based on current events and market activity, and post this content for clients in client portals. Advisors can also post this content on social media, and create a special COVID-19 update section of their practice websites discussing measures they are taking for the benefit of clients and employees, and offer market commentary and other useful resources, such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention materials.
Advisors can also post local health and safety news and resources related to each client’s community in client portals, and alert clients to this information by email.
During mass panic and market volatility, financial advisors have an important role to play as financial coaches who can calm their clients, and investors at large, and provide reasonable recommendations for how to navigate downturns and corrections. The COVID-19 outbreak calls advisors to service in extraordinary circumstances. Thanks to modern technology solutions, advisors can continue to serve as trusted experts and partners (and calming influences) to their clients while continuing to effectively run and grow their businesses for as long as present conditions require them to work from home.
— Check out Top Women in WealthTech 2020: Angela Pecoraro of Advicent on ThinkAdvisor.
Angela Pecoraro is CEO of Advicent, the provider of NaviPlan, which supports over 140,000 financial professionals across more than 3,000 firms worldwide.