Much has been written in the industry trades about the importance of reaching out to clients and uttering the four crucial words in any time of panic and uncertainty: “How can we help?”
The extreme stress and volatility, and significant increases in trading and processing volume, due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past several weeks—plus the inability to hold face-to-face meetings for the foreseeable future, and the fear investors are experiencing—create an extraordinary set of circumstances for advisors and their clients.
The current crisis presents many opportunities for advisors to demonstrate greater value for clients.
Besides reassuring and calming investors, advisors can help them strategically navigate the present crisis by offering short-term budgeting and spending tips. Many investors have had to alter their spending habits due to social distancing and working from home, but advisors can work with clients—using digital budgeting and financial planning tools—to see if they will need to make longer-term changes, and if so, how they can make feasible cuts.
In addition, advisors can engage in planning activities with clients to determine what liquidity sources can be tapped in the event they use up emergency funds. Some clients could benefit from transferring funds from their IRAs into health savings accounts (HSAs). This is also the ideal time to review last wills and testaments, living wills, and healthcare proxies with clients, and revise them as necessary. Ensuring investors have a plan in place for meeting expenses and honoring their medical care preferences down the road, no matter how long the crisis lasts, provides them with peace of mind that is priceless in this type of situation.
Furthermore, advisors can demonstrate their value as dedicated partners by helping clients take advantage of lower loan payments from lenders that are accommodating borrowers affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
With Tax Day officially extended this year, advisors can proactively reach out to clients to discuss what the later filing deadline means for them, and also present tax-loss harvesting opportunities that can benefit them.
While advisors may not have the capacity to personally check in with all clients on a daily basis, they can still make their presence felt in clients’ lives with weekly, twice-a-week, or daily email communications that offer their take on market developments, and encourage investors to reach out to them with questions or concerns at any time.
Don’t Be Afraid to (Tactfully) Ask for Referrals
We face a very serious health crisis, and advisors may understandably feel uneasy about plugging their businesses during such a scary and uncertain time. But if an advisor’s clients are nervous, their family members and friends are too—and the advisor can help.
Advisors shouldn’t be afraid to plant seeds for referrals by offering to speak for a few minutes with a client’s relatives or friends who feel the same way they do, and would benefit from speaking with an advisor about financial planning or wealth management matters. Emphasize that such conversations would carry no obligations, and would help their loved ones achieve peace of mind.
Although much has changed in our everyday lives, and many businesses have temporarily shut down, financial advisors are still hard at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wealth and investment management, and financial planning, never pause. There are a variety of opportunities for advisors to strengthen their client relationships and practices during this uncertain and volatile period.
By Kevin McCrossin, Senior Director, Business Development