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7 Client-Experience Lessons Top Advisors Learned in the Pandemic

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During the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Private Client Virtual Conference on Wednesday, advisors from some of the industry’s largest firms provided seven tips for other advisors based on what they learned during the pandemic.

1. ‘Close the loop’ with clients.

It is important to build trust with your clients through “closing the loop,” according to Brad McRae, a financial advisor and regional leader at Edward Jones.

What that means, he explained, is: “Do what you say you’re going to do and then say that you did it. It could be something as simple as a transfer or making sure that paperwork is completed … and following through as a branch team, making sure that the client understands that you delivered and maybe even under-promised and over-delivered.”

That has “helped us through the pandemic,” he noted, adding he and other Edward Jones analysts helped clients not only build clients’ trust in technology but also helped build, “most importantly, trust in the financial advisor, myself and our branch team as a whole.”

2. Help clients stay focused on their long-term goals despite a crisis.

It is also important to help clients be “nimble with their financial plan” and try to get them to “stay focused on their long-term goals despite headwinds” like the pandemic, McRae said.

He noted that a study found that 20 million Americans stopped contributing to their retirement accounts during the first few months of the pandemic.

“There’s always going to be some crisis that happens and this time is never different. The business cycle doesn’t get repealed” just because there is a major crisis like 9/11, a financial crisis or a pandemic, said Nolan Stokes, wealth management advisor at Northwestern Mutual.

Clients need to be informed more than ever during such times and advisors should carefully walk them through the crisis, he added.

3. Learn to listen.

While it is crucial that advisors talk to their clients and explain things those clients may not understand, it is also important to know when to stop talking and listen to your clients, Stokes also said.

“Listening is the key skill that advisors need to be trained [in] and we need to have practice in,” he said.

4. Go above and beyond in times of crisis.

Angie Newman, a senior vice president and portfolio manager at UBS, learned it is important to sometimes “roll up your sleeves and help people however you can” during a crisis like the pandemic, even if the help they need falls outside the traditional advisor-client relationship, she said.

Some elderly clients couldn’t leave their homes or were afraid to leave their homes during the pandemic, so they needed groceries picked up for them or they needed a ride to the grocery store or a bank, she said, noting she stepped up to the plate and lent a hand.

Some clients also felt lonely because they were isolated during the pandemic, so picking up the phone to speak to them made those clients feel better, she said.

Sometimes it is just important to forget about the financial part of the job and more important to “prove ourselves as human in a crisis,” she said.

5. Promptly respond to clients’ emails and phone calls.

It is important to be client-focused, according to Kapil Mathur, a financial advisor and managing director at Morgan Stanley.

Don’t make clients wait a long time to return their call or email message, he said, noting he likes to respond to emails within 1-2 hours to make sure clients know he cares, he explained. Demonstrate that you care on a day-to-day basis, he added.

6. Be enthusiastic when communicating with clients.

It is important to be enthusiastic when dealing with clients, Mathur also said. He pointed to a famous quote by American football coach Vince Lombardi, who warned: “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.”

7. Realize that proximity is no longer central to picking an advisor.

Aleeza Singh, senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, realized during the pandemic that “proximity is dead as a measurement for what people look for in an advisor,” she said.

After all, even if your client lived three houses down, “you weren’t going to see them for a while” in person due to the pandemic, she noted.

Therefore, it is important to try to forge a deep relationship with clients that does not require being with them in person, she said.

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