Economic stability is never an absolute given. But in the face of a crisis, the degree of financial uncertainty and anxiety facing Americans presents a devastatingly difficult challenge for advisors: You must find a way to support clients even while navigating unprecedented disruptions to systems and ways of living that neither you nor your clients have faced before.
While the goals and resources available to you and your clients might vary through this process, three rules of thumb can allow you to provide continued effective services.
1. Don’t wait to communicate.
Clients who are trying to do their best through a crisis have more to navigate than just money. Many of them are figuring out other areas, too, such as arranging child care, trying to set themselves up to work from home and learning how to cook more healthy meals. Many of these areas are in flux, as well, with clients inundated by rapidly changing recommendations, requirements, or available tools.
In other words, while clients might be concerned about their assets and financial management, they might be so overwhelmed with everything else life is immediately demanding that they fail to prioritize reaching out to you, let alone taking the time to analyze all their accounts.
By proactively getting in touch with your clients rather than waiting for them to contact you, you can help them create a variety of flexible financial strategies and contingency plans, offer information that might prevent short-term financial lapses, ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and improve the odds that you are able to make timely account decisions or recommendations as the pandemic situation fluctuates. The reassurance that you already are doing much of the footwork behind the scenes can prevent finance from being just one more area of added stress.
2. Make technology your best friend.
Social distancing recommendations are in place in many areas of the country that may limit or eliminate the ability to meet with your clients face-to-face. Fortunately, technology can allow you to communicate with your clients even over considerable physical distances. On the most basic level, for example, you can send emails or texts that your clients can respond to at leisure. But platforms such as Slack, Zoom, Skype and many others also offer the opportunity to meet virtually. It is also possible to use technology to share and edit finance-related documents with each other, or to acquire necessary signatures.
3. Embrace structure.
Like other individuals who suddenly are thrust into work-from-home settings, you might be facing a range of new difficulties, such as working around the schedules of others in your house. Advisors also can struggle with feelings of isolation, managing incoming information or setting clear boundaries.
Structure can help you address these issues and work more effectively. For example, schedule meals and breaks, or set specific times for drafting documents, contacting other financial professionals in your network for opinions/updates, reviewing individual portfolios or checking key stocks. Similarly, make a good habit of keeping paperwork and tools in an organized system, and draw a line about when you will and will not be available. By sticking to your personal framework for the day, you’ll know how much you reasonably can accomplish for your clients and will be able to more easily identify the most pressing tasks to handle for them.
The pandemic is likely to continue to influence your client’s needs not for weeks or months, but for years. By advocating for them well now, you’ll communicate a powerful, positive message about the way you’ll continue to work on their behalf well into the future.
David Partain is SVP of Northern Trust as well as CMO of their subsidiary, FlexShares Exchange Traded Funds. He has over 15 years of marketing, sales, and finance expertise and was named one of the '20 Rising Stars in Finance' by the Gramercy Institute.