couple in front of Christmas tree (Photo: Shutterstock)

In the last few weeks I’ve noticed a “disturbance in the Force.” Hopefully there are some “Star Wars” fans out there. This is as significant as a market signal because the investing public thinks all financial advisors provide a similar service. Everyone needs an edge, an opportunity to stand apart. You might have one this week.

The Disturbance in the Force

People and organizations are getting sloppy. Here are three recent signs:

  • Christmas cards. We send out a lot. We usually receive a lot. Not this year. We are getting far fewer. Even though people had months of lockdown to get prepared, it seems many of our regulars were asleep at the switch. We are getting far fewer cards.
  • Annual appeal letters. If you have been a donor or member of a nonprofit, you know they send an annual appeal letter in the fourth quarter. According to NP Source, 30% of annual giving occurs in December, 10% in the last three days of the year! As of Dec. 20, we hadn’t received letters or emails from two of our major nonprofits.
  • Religious institutions. Churches tend to get a spike in donations at Christmas and Easter. More people attend services. They put that extra envelope into the collection basket. It usually arrives after Thanksgiving or in early December. Mine just arrived on Dec. 21.

A lot of the “touches,” so important to good customer service, don’t seem to be happening this year.

Where Is This Unprecedented Opportunity?

Call your clients during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Let them know you are thinking about them. Thank them for being an important client. Relate that you have both been through a difficult year. That can be enough if their other advisors aren’t picking up the phone.

Suppose you need a business reason to rationalize getting in touch? Here are a few.

  1. Schedule their annual portfolio review for early in the new year. It can be as simple as: “You should get a report card. Lets schedule a call and review how you’ve done in 2020.” Their November statement likely got them pretty excited.
  2. Do you see the need for tax selling? Maybe not. Let them know you checked it out before you called. Do they have accounts held elsewhere? Are there gains or losses needing to be offset? You have subtly communicated “At least one of (their advisors) is paying attention!”
  3. Any last-minute charitable donations? Earlier we mentioned 10% of donations come to charities in the last three days of the year. This might be a transfer of appreciated stock.
  4. Any last-minute gifts to family members? Because of the gift tax exclusion rules they can each give $15,000 a year to as many people as they want. They likely have this covered. Were there any newborns in the fourth quarter they might have missed? The answer will likely be no.

What Did I Just Do?

Lots of things. You thanked them for their business. Let them know they are an important client. (Everyone likes that.) Let them know you are still at work while they are taking their tree down. Let them know you understand their situation and have their interests in mind. The portfolio review lets them know you are accountable. It lines them up for future business after the ball falls in Times Square.