The Coronavirus pandemic has caused many professionals across various industries to change the way they do business. These changes go far beyond developing new work-from-home operations or implementing new technology. It has changed the way people communicate with one another, specifically in the financial services industry, how advisors communicate with their clients. It will be interesting to see whether this communication evolution shifts back to “old ways” once the pandemic ends or if it stays this way forever.
Thirty years ago, when many advisors started in this industry, the focus was on communicating data to clients - looking at balance sheets, evaluating them, and coming up with strategies on how to shift the clients’ portfolios to improve performance and profitability. To summarize, advisors might have spent most of their days interacting with numbers than with their clients. Much of this changed with the great recession of 2008.
The great recession caused a massive shift in the way advisors communicate with their clients. Instead of dedicating the bulk of their time to the numbers, advisors spent more time on the individual clients, getting to know them as individuals – their likes and dislikes, activities, hobbies, and hopes for their futures. Thus, began the first great evolution in advisor-client communications.
Today, while wrestling with the Coronavirus pandemic, we see a similar shift in communication style. With unemployment numbers backsliding, massive layoffs, and market volatility, clients are very much worried about their financial futures. Clients might be more focused on maintenance versus growth. Advisors are most likely having more conversations about mitigating risk and “staying the course.”
Clients are trying to navigate at-home schooling, creating a suitable remote work space, and a volatile market. Clients worry about their physical health, emotional troubles due to isolation, and, in the worst-case-scenarios, coping with the death of a loved one. Clients (and advisors alike), are dealing with complex and heavy emotional situations. And often, meeting client needs is not a one-size-fits-all. Right now, advisors are acting as “life counselors” in addition to being financial advisors.
Many advisors are not used to communicating virtually and navigating new technologies. Due to social distancing protocols and some hesitancy clients might feel about in-person meetings, technology has become even more critical. Products like Zoom, for virtual meetings and digital happy hours, can help advisors reach out to their clients more frequently and on deeper levels. Learning how to effectively use these virtual meeting tools can not only help advisors reach clients now, but could also help attract the next generation of investors.
Many younger investors, set to inherit wealth, look to technology for information, ideas, and answers. But one shouldn’t confuse the use of technology with impersonal or “all business” dealings. These younger investors are just as interested in and in need of that personal touch and connection and a trusting advisor-client relationship – even virtually.
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