As markets reel in response to the recent pandemic, the financial advisory industry faces a host of uncertainties. Clients are seeking advice and reassurance, while advisors have their own worries and investment challenges. As well as finding new ways to deal with clients, advisors have had to navigate administrative issues and furlough or even make staff redundant. 

In this post we’ll examine how the crisis is impacting financial advisors along with some ways to keep your business on track. 

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Some advisors are reporting a fall in new business

Covid-19 appears to be having a larger impact than previous market crashes. For some advisors lockdown is putting a check on new business acquisition. When questioned 62% of advisors who took part in a recent Facebook survey said they had seen new enquiries fall. 

The reason? According to many advisors it’s because new clients need to have that personal connection before they sign up. Although video calls can work well, many potential clients still like to ‘meet’ their advisor in person. 

Another reason for the decrease in demand could be because many of the catalysts to setting up new financial plans (house moves, marriages, etc.) are on hold.. 

Other advisors are seeing an increase in enquiries

The picture when it comes to new business acquisition is not the same across the board: 

While technology may be putting off some first time investors, others are actively seeking financial advice for the first time. 

Existing clients are concerned about their long-term objectives

During the pandemic advisors have been spending more time speaking with clients. According to recent research six in 10 advisors said they’ve experienced a 25% increase in inbound contact from clients. As you would expect  many clients are seeking reassurance about their investments, as well as information on self-employment and payment deferrals. 

Clients are asking whether their retirement plans are being derailed

The coronavirus is having an impact on many pre-retirees who were hoping to retire early. According to UK newspaper The Telegraph millions of investors have had significant sums wiped off their pension pot. Legal & General estimated that more than 15 million workers over 50 would have to work an extra 3 years in order to  have enough to retire on.

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At this time advisors are playing a big part in how things pan out. Their advice is pivotal in ensuring clients are adequately protected - especially if they’ve historically been taking money from higher risk funds.According to some reports there’s been a big increase in requests for fixed term annuities. This is probably down to the fact that attitudes to risk have changed.

What you can do to increase your chances of success during the pandemic

1 If a client hasn’t been in touch call them

“Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more” 

That’s according to Mark Casady, partner at Vestigo Ventures. “Customers want to know what their advisors think, and why,” “They want to experience their advisor’s confidence in the world returning to a more normal time. And small check-ins, like a simple message, count”

Despite performance blips the #number one reason clients are disappointed with their advisors is poor communication. They expect timely, reassuring and tailored communications. 

If a client hasn’t gotten on the phone to you, call them and ask if you can help. Look out for your most vulnerable clients. The FCA has stated that FAs must identify their most vulnerable clients and ensure they are getting the support they need. 

Key indicators of vulnerability include health, life events, resilience and financial capability. Look out for clients going through a divorce as well as those who’ve become recently unemployed.  Check both they - and you - are confident their current financial plan is still fit for purpose. 

3 Keep clients informed

The next few months are unlikely to be easy so re-visit client communication plans. Produce content to educate and reassure clients and keep them regularly updated about events. 

4 Learn how to host the best client meetings 

There are some things you can do to increase your chances of success, not least by making your virtual meetings with clients as productive as possible. 

4  Make the most of your free time

If you have more time on your hands why not use it wisely to invest in training? You could consider gaining a specialist qualification on, say, pension transfers or long term care - or use this time to get the next level FA qualifications. 

5 Move processes online

Make use of existing technology. As well as a CRM and financial planning tools make use of apps e.g. for admin or documentation processes to enable remote working both now and in the future.

If you step up your level of service, clients will remember you for helping them through uncertain times. When the current crisis is over they’ll look to you for help in rebuilding for the future and they will be more likely to refer you to family and friends as a trusted advisor. 

It’s difficult enough keeping clients invested throughout routine market downturns. At the moment, however, we’re experiencing exceptional levels of market decline - creating unprecedented panic and fear among investors. 

As a financial advisor, you must focus on allaying your clients’ concerns. You also need to find ways to continue growing the business; that’s not an easy balancing act. 

In this post, we’ll look at ways to survive these challenging times and keep your business on track. 

Keep in touch with your clients

During the Covid-19 pandemic, clients have been bombarded with negative news and opinion. This immediately changes their perspective. All they can think about is the loss of momentum. They picture a market that’s going nowhere but down; they start to think that they’re doing the wrong thing by staying invested.

To help overcome your clients’ reaction to the falling markets help them keep in mind that, while the Covid-19 virus may be new, volatile markets are not. 

Give them a historical perspective. Reinforce the fact that Wall Street has always ‘climbed a wall of worry’. People who stay invested even in the worst markets tend to do better than those that don’t.

Take charge of clients’ expectations

When clients feel insecure you need to step up and take charge of their expectations. Stop short term market volatility from shifting their focus away from their long-term plans. Remind clients that their plan - based on their goals and risk tolerance - was designed specifically for them and it still makes sense to stick with it.

When markets contract, your clients require a reassuring presence. Tell them that there’s no reason to panic. Manage their behavior – so they can sail through periods of volatility without throwing in the towel.

They hired you to worry so that they don’t have to. Make them see that they can trust you to do the right thing by them. You can and will help them achieve that comfortable retirement they long for.

Staying invested doesn’t mean doing nothing 

Human nature dictates that when catastrophe hits we want to act - it’s a case of ‘fight or flight’. Doing nothing goes against the grain. While you want to keep clients invested that doesn’t mean simply sitting back and taking no action. 

This could be a good time to sit down with clients and discuss other financial and tax planning opportunities. Re-running their projections for retirement etc. may highlight adjustments that need to be made. 

By helping clients adjust their personal budgets, and making contingency plans, they will feel you’re managing their investments proactively. This will reassure them and give them confidence you’re looking after their money wisely. 

Despite the crisis, you still need to grow your business

This is one of the most challenging tasks of all: Focusing on current clients whilst attempting to scale your business. Your time is a valuable commodity so you need to apportion it correctly when it comes to looking after your existing clients and finding new ones.

You may not want to reach out to potential clients at this time but let prospects know you’re still open for business.

Position yourself as a thought-leader by hosting online seminars. Update your website with helpful information and news. Publish relevant blog posts along with data e.g. to show how stocks have dipped and rallied over the last 100 years (to illustrate market recoveries). 

When prospects come to you - follow up promptly

Most financial advisors are not happy with cold-calling during the crisis. However, you may find you’re seeing an increase in the number of calls you’re getting from prospective clients. Some clients may be unhappy with their current advisors and are thinking of changing. Others may be sitting on the sidelines with cash and need to discuss their options. 

When a prospect attempts to contact you via your website, social media, or via any other means, aim to respond within one hour. If you can respond more quickly so much the better. This shows you’re on top of things and that you see their queries as a priority. 

Prepare for a virtual meeting by sending out an accurate agenda. And once the meeting’s over send out a follow-up email asap with a recap of the conversation and include action items. Make use of automation to ensure you create and send documentation in a timely fashion. 

During these stressful times, you need to emphasize your unique value to clients. By maintaining close contact with them, making adjustments as necessary - and helping them stay focused on the bigger picture you will provide them with peace of mind. 

And, while you may not be actively prospecting at the moment, make sure prospects can find you. When potential clients get in touch, engage with them quickly and efficiently. This will give you the best chance of winning their business in the future. 

Another resource to share with the financial advisor community. Over the years when I was responsible for portfolio research, I found this website with its heatmap a very helpful tool to quickly focus on the answers I needed.

Sometimes it was to find a stock that has been beaten up. Other times it was too look at what industry was dragging down the performance overall.

I just pulled this chart today that shows you that Independent Oil has been challenged this year. Or while tech has been flying, BIDU not so much. You can pull so much from such a simple visual.

https://www.finviz.com/
YTD Heatmap - Nov 17 2019

Check out the website - https://www.finviz.com - they have great tools. Share with your team.

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