With market turmoil whipsawing portfolios and government policies creating confusion among investors, advisors need to be making the extra effort to connect with clients and help guide them as best they can. The work-from-home nature of the pandemic creates an opportune time for financial advisors to connect with clients who are also WFH-ing. Just checking in on a client’s well-being is an excellent time to enhance trust. It also affords an opportunity to provide the highly personalized advice that they need more than ever.
It can be argued that advisors didn’t learn this lesson during the last financial crisis. After 2008, wealth advisors may not have connected with clients effectively enough. This may have led to the takeoff of robo-advisors, which have seen double-digit growth in recent years, with at least one estimate projecting the discount services could amass $1 trillion in assets under management by year’s end. When advisors didn’t maximize client outreach during that crisis, it may have hastened investors’ flight to robo-advisors for their low fees, digital-first nature and user-friendliness.
Obviously the pressure on financial advisors to cut fees is a reality. Advisors have to offer better, more differentiated advice and constant digital contact with their clients. Advisors can’t fall into the same trap twice. While they have started turning to technology to do things like automate disclosures and aggregate portfolio news, it’s the human touch that will set the smart advisor apart.
Most financial professionals have worked through a series of bull and bear markets. In fact, many advisors have likely had to manage clientele through multiple busts that seemed, at the time, like once-in-a-generation events — Black Monday, the dot-com bust and the mortgage crisis for example. They can use those very human experiences to help support and guide their clients through the current crisis. Many advisors forget that emotions are a huge factor when it comes to clients making decisions about their finances. Showing emotional support now can go a long way toward helping clients make smart decisions.
Right now, many clients have lots of questions. There’s confusion over current policies, like the how the CARES act has waived required minimum distributions from retirement plans for some investors, or what the Paycheck Protection Program allows small-business owners to do. Skillful financial advisors will be in personal and digital contact with their clients through a planned approach. Showing clients they are aware of what a confusing and challenging time we’re in means more than just helping with numbers.
Indeed, advisors are finding that simply checking in can spark a serious conversation about long-term planning and new products. Now that the whole family is under one roof, a client may pull their spouse into a meeting for an impromptu discussion about a 529 plan for their grandkids. Well-rounded advisors with broad knowledge and the ability to think on their feet to deliver the personalized advice that their clients crave will thrive in these situations.
Together, over video, advisors and clients can study options for a client portfolio, visualize income distributions and highlight the potential for tax-loss harvesting at year-end. Considering that some researchers believe 65% of people are visual-based learners, video and visual communication should become a part of your advisory toolkit if it isn’t already.
Anecdotally, at least, we are starting to see some advisors doing exactly that. Some have said they schedule two dozen client video meetings each day as well as follow-up phone calls, emails and even texts and, as a result, have more contact with their client base than they used to. Of course, video calls from home come with their own challenges, like dogs barking in the background or lost connections. But even those glitches can help build trust and empathy as they show that advisors, like clients, are only human.
Tim Slavin is senior vice president for retirement at Broadridge.