Successful advisers are experienced and adept when it comes to helping their clients plan for retirement. Similarly, most successful advisers are equipped to guide their clients through the financial questions that arise during periods of transition, such as divorce or a job change. Major, unpredictable disruptions though, like what we are currently witnessing with COVID-19, can pose unique challenges, even for long-time advisers.
Still, it’s times such as these where advisers can build trust and strengthen their client relationships directly as a result of keeping their clients calm throughout the crisis. After all, it’s easy to keep your clients happy when the market is up, but it’s in these suddenly turbulent times where the stability you can provide makes the most lasting impression and can help to solidify the relationships you work so hard to cultivate.
First things first: Talk to your staff
How can you effectively handle the influx of client inquiries you’re dealing with? You first need to make sure your staff understands your expectations regarding how client concerns should be addressed. If your staff members are saying different things, whether that’s underplaying the potential crisis or exaggerating what is currently understood, the inconsistencies will undermine your messaging.
The importance of being a calm, steadying influence (when everyone around you seems to have a twitchy Twitter finger and a megaphone) can’t be overstated. After all, one absolute fact you can bank on is that pandemics don’t care what our priorities are. Nor do they care about our politics. Stick to facts and your office will stand out in a positive way.
Embrace the opportunity for client interaction
One of the most important things you can do is to simply assure your clients you are there to hear their concerns. Be available!
Client concerns in times such as the present may center around health risks – or they may center around the market and the economy. You have to be prepared to deal with all three.
With shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders around the country, it’s important to stay connected with clients via videoconferencing. A 2019 study Redtail conducted of more than 3,200 wealth management professionals found over half (59%) of respondents are not communicating with clients via video, and only 7% are utilizing video to connect with clients on a regular basis. This is the time to turn those stats on their head, as it’s a win for both clients and staff.
Market volatility, combined with concerns about one’s health and the health of one’s loved ones, is a pretty stout one-two punch for most to absorb, particularly when there is no clear indication of when the bell’s going to ring to signal the end of this particular disruption. Make yourself accessible to your clients and try to make recommendations that matter, based upon the most reliable sources of information available.
Be a valuable resource
With small businesses around the country forced to shut their doors, millions of people suddenly found themselves out of work. Make sure you’re able to point clients in the right direction for SBA loans, unemployment and information about the government’s stimulus package. Consider partnering with a local health care expert to host a webinar about health and safety tips, especially as the virus continues to spread.
Regardless of whether your office’s business continuity planning takes pandemic-related stresses into account, many of your clients will now be looking to you for assurance that, larger disruptions aside, your work for and diligence on their behalf will not be interrupted. We don’t yet know what the human toll or the toll on the markets will be, but advisers must be prepared to address their clients’ concerns now.
Make sure your office is equipped with the information needed to be the steadying influence you expect them to be, rather than contributors to the chaos. Make sure your clients know you are available to them, and you are resolved to be a steady hand guiding them through this disruption, regardless of the duration. A reminder that your work for them in the past has laid the groundwork for successfully seeing them through the present may be in order.
Finally, recognize your own feelings of vulnerability, as advisers are not immune to either the health- or market-related risks posed by COVID-19. It’s through acknowledging these feelings in one’s self we can more fully empathize with and help those looking toward us for leadership.
David Mehlhorn is director of sales at