Dimensional works with a diverse group of leading financial advisors, and we sponsor professional communities where these advisors can gain specialized knowledge and share best practices. We recently asked participants in our Women and Wealth Community to share how they are helping clients during the COVID-19 crisis. These professionals are combining their expertise with empathy to connect with clients and deliver a higher level of financial advice.
Here are a few responses:
Encouraging a still presence and calm in clients
Lena Mandelis, Partner, ALENA Wealth
Right now, applying expertise in human behavior is more important than discussing numbers and statistics. The best thing I can share with my clients is a grounded, still presence, where they can feel some calm. Empathy is critical―now and always. Clients want to know that I understand and feel their fear and concerns. I don’t discount their fear or tell them not to be afraid. Fear has taken over the logical part of their brain, so I don’t try to reason with them. I focus on calming them.
This crisis is so different from 2008―but it might be more stressful given the speed of the market decline and the impact on both health and wealth. Social media adds another layer of anxiety, and we are just starting to see some of the true leadership that needs to emerge in a time of crisis. People need to be heard―and increasingly, they need to be seen, given the isolation.
Stay close, control what you can, and take care of yourself
Karma Forrestal, Partner, Forum Financial Management
Over the past few weeks, I have called nearly every one of my clients and had conversations that were heartfelt and honest. Encouraging clients to express their fears during this incredibly crazy and weird time has made my relationship with them even tighter. Hearing each client’s voice has helped me put things in perspective and has been calming in a way I had not expected.
Crisis creates change, and I believe some wonderful changes will come out of this. We are focusing on the things we can control right now, like rebalancing. Clients have loved that we are doing this.
Advisors should take care of themselves during these trying times. I have most definitely been emotionally exhausted and drained, and I cannot take care of my clients if I do not take care of myself. Advisors should have others they can call for support. We are all in this together.
Now more than ever, we need to stay in touch
Shari Reiches, Co-Founder, Rappaport Reiches Capital Management
At such a critical time, the combination of empathy and expertise is everything. Clients will not accept advice and counsel if you do not first acknowledge their concerns. We want them to talk about how the current environment is affecting them personally and understand their current financial needs, values, and goals. Focusing on long-term objectives can help raise the conversation above the daily market volatility and direct them towards what they can control.
Our phones were pretty quiet when the downturn started. I think we have taught our clients to stay disciplined. Still, we decided to call each one, and have used video meetings to review portfolios and discuss rebalancing, tax trading, and financial planning. For those who are very nervous, we have called several times. We also are sending our newsletter weekly instead of every few weeks. Now more than ever, we need to stay in touch.
Showing clients they can weather the storm
Stuart Smith, Wealth Management Lead Partner, ML&R Wealth Management
The level of anxiety is high for all of us from an emotional, physical, and financial perspective. Clients want to know someone understands their fears and is there to listen and support them—and is also watching their money and making the decisions that they are either unable or scared to make.
For clients who are worried about the market and the volatility, I walk them through the cash they have on hand and how long that will sustain their monthly living needs. Then we look at their fixed income allocation and go through the same process. Once they realize they have support for many years in the future, they tend to relax and understand that they can weather the shorter-term downturn and give their portfolio time to recover.
I try to send weekly emails to let clients know I am here watching over their portfolio. The most rewarding and affirming part of my client communications has been the number of clients who have responded to check on me and my family. That is when you know you are working with the right people.
Connecting with clients beyond their financial life
Beth Greulich, Financial Advisor and Partner, Abacus Wealth Partners
I have found that clients, particularly older ones, want to talk about more than simply their financial life. They want to be listened to . . . to be heard. They are lonely and scared. These clients really appreciate distractions, such as suggestions for books and movies. The first week, many feared for their personal financial security. Now there is more fear for society as a whole.
Understand client concerns, follow their plan, and don’t judge their fears
Diane Bourdo, President, The Humphreys Group
This is a time when we can really connect, build on established trust, and provide meaningful reassurance. Because this event is threatening to both health and wealth, we need to be very aware of the powerful undercurrent of fear and panic, even for the most steady and stoic among us.
We must approach each client interaction with our full humanity―which is one of the best outcomes of this crisis. We are relating to clients as fellow threatened human beings. They don’t expect us to predict the future, and they understand the importance of following a strategy, having a long-term perspective, and staying disciplined. Our clients who experienced the 2008–2009 crisis with us have the benefit of having gone through this drill (or a version of it) already.
So far, two of our clients could not be calmed and wanted to take action. I walked through their investment objectives to remind them of their long-term plan and pointed out aspects of their financial strength. That helped bring them back to center. In these situations, we want to show clients patience and not judge their fears.