JULIE LITTLECHILD'S BLOG


Advisors Share Ideas and Tools to Demonstrate Leadership

I’m sure I’m not alone in living every hour of every day in extremes.

  • I feel frustration at how certain things are being handled and complete awe at the way in which we are coming together.
  • I feel annoyed as technology doesn’t always perform as expected and profound respect for my team as they come together – online – to create new solutions for our clients.
  • I feel concern for our advisor clients and appreciate that those same advisors are willing to share their wisdom with this community.

It is that last point that I wanted to focus on today.

Last week we invited advisors to share some ideas on the messages they are sharing with clients, to demonstrate leadership, and the tools they are using to stay in touch. It’s hard to find the time to respond, of course, but I’m grateful to those who did.

You can download a summary of the ideas we heard here or review them below. As an aside, we removed identifying information.

The Questions We Put to Advisors

What have you done to most effectively demonstrate leadership for your clients in the last several weeks? That may be a tool you have used to communicate more broadly, a message you have delivered or a process you have implemented to reach out.

A Message You Have Shared

  • From my blog: What can you do?
    • Don’t let the headlines drive your buy or sell decisions. A considerable amount of fear, speculation, and uncertainty are creating market volatility.
    • Don’t watch the financial news.
    • Take a walk and enjoy the beauty that comes with early spring.
    • You are being blessed with a lot more time with your family. Take advantage of it.
    • Focus on staying healthy and taking sensible precautions to keep yourself and your family safe. Be protective of loved ones who are at higher risk of virus-related complications.
    • Show others around you some extra kindness in these anxious days. Be grateful for those medical professionals who are working hard to keep us healthy. The same goes for those helping to keep our stores stocked.
    • Remember that our nation has been here before. We have the resources needed to get through this.
    • Exercise. It helps relieve stress. I continue to use my elliptical in the early morning. When appropriate, I will also go bike riding with my children.
  • Don’t act out of fear. Doing nothing is a strategy. If you have concerns, talk to us.
  • Simply offering an opportunity to talk about their concerns and anxieties.
  • Just calling them to check in. Let them know that I am here. We know these things happen from time to time, and I have a plan.
  • I work with retiree and cash wedge for everyone. So the message has been… Your income, the plans you’ve made, the vehicles you’ve considered, the family gifts, the charitable giving, can and should continue as planned. Together, we’ve planned for 10-14 years of the income you need and it is already set aside. You are in good shape to allow this market recovery to take place. In the meantime, you should continue to live and retire well. Be confident and take advantage.
  • Had admin assistant reach out to each and every client on the phone to set 15 minute calls. Suggested in each case small tweaks to portfolios to remove a little bit of volatility. Reinforced it’s “Time in Market” and not “Timing the market” for success. Also sent out several professional looking “Communique” messages when warranted to communicate and essentially give clients some perspective through the mayhem. Have had many conversations and find that very seldom do I get a panicked client – they all understand market cycles. This is huge, but it too shall pass.
  • This is a scary, unprecedented time for all of us. Precautions are smart, but fear is not your friend.
  • We’ve sent out email communications each week over the last three (two in the first week), held an investor update call, implemented a weekly Q&A investor call, and we’ve mobilized all the advisors in the firm to help proactively make personal calls to clients to check in on them.
  • Remain calm
  • Take care of yourselves as you and your relationships are what matter. Financial markets will recover. Some things are much more valuable than money.
  • That I feel their pain and let them talk about how they feel, instead of going into fix it mode (a typical male thing).
  • It’s the buying opportunity of the decade. Courage is my message. We have been here before, prices have gone down this much before and our accounts have survived and prospered.
  • I decided not to write emails or newsletters because my inbox is full of them about COVID disaster plans and I didn’t want to say the usual don’t worry as with the health side of this that’s trivialising what people feel so I learned to use a video message sender and have done a 90 second video for each person just saying something relevant. like the ones down south are you aware of the change in cover on medical plans March 23rd and appearing calm and confident
  • Checking in: how are you feeling physically? How are you feeling emotionally? How have your values, goals and life situation changed, if at all?
  • We are facing an unusual time. It looks like COVID-19 (“the Coronavirus”) is more contagious than the flu, and could be more serious than the flu to the over 70-years-old population, or people with compromised health systems. Those are, however, many of the exact people we serve in our office! It might even be you! Everyone should take care, reduce exposure to masses of people, drink lots of fluids, get plenty of rest, and practice intense hand washing. Some are saying the media is blowing things out of proportion. It is hard to sift through all the information, and understand the reality we face, which is changing rapidly on a daily/hourly basis. There are still so many unknowns. Anxiousness and worry are natural, even hard-wired, reactions to events like this (as witnessed recently in the investment markets). While we can not solve many of the problems with this situation, we wanted to provide you some reassurance about your financial plans, investment assets, and your access to us and the services our office provides to you. First, some facts: New Jersey has declared a state of emergency (which generally has to do with funding and resources). We are continuing to monitor the situation. Nobody at our firm has been infected, and we are currently operating as usual. We will let you know immediately if that status changes. Many community programs; conferences have been cancelled in an attempt to proactively avoid risk of contamination. Our local high school and Monmouth University have closed until further notice, and all students have been sent home and told to stay there. We’ve learned that the NCAA basketball tournament will be held without spectators, the NBA season has been suspended, and other similar events will also face limitations or outright cancellations. Foreign travelers from the EU will be restricted from traveling to the US. Italy has virtually shut it’s whole country down (limiting travel and commerce without special permission). All of these actions are in order to try and limit/stop the spread of this virus. Could the United States, or even New Jersey, follow Italy’s lead? Perhaps. We learned many lessons about running our business from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Since that time our operations and infrastructure are “fully in the cloud” – that means we can access all of our files, information and perform work on remote computers, including at home. After Sandy hit we vowed that even without electric service from ;L we’d be able to operate – we installed a generator to run our office. Even if we had to abandon the office we could rent hotel space in Pennsylvania or Maryland, and work there until we got the all clear to reoccupy our offices in New Jersey. We did NOT anticipate a possible national or state-wide quarantine of any scope. However, if that happens, we want to assure you that we can and will STILL be able to operate – we can handle telephone or video consults without direct contact, we can email, upload/download to client vaults, rebalance portfolios, request cash distributions, etc… (physical papers may be a challenge, but there is not a lot of need for that anymore in our business). At this time, it is natural for people to worry about their loved ones, particularly their “elder” family members. We don’t want you to lose focus on that, and also have to worry about us and the work we perform on your behalf. We can and will continue to help families through this and all other emergencies to the degree we can. Naturally, if there is a quarantine of any scope, or restrictions on our traveling to the office, our in-person meetings will be cancelled. However, we will still be available for providing service and advice via telephone, video conferencing and email. During this time of uncertainty we want you to rest assured we remain committed to helping our families and clients as best as humanly possible. In the meantime, stay safe, wash your hands frequently and with fervor, and keep your hands away from your face. We will get through this.
  • Developed a letter that was sent out via e-mail and followed up with a phone call to every client relationship. Each call was prepared to present a asset allocation adjustment
  • We worked together to develop a plan for your future and we will work together to make sure the plan continues to work for you and your goals, as they evolve.
  • Keep calm and carry on. This pandemic will pass and we will look back on it as an historical event but in the meantime, I’m here if you need me.
  • I have called them to chat and to ask about their loved ones, especially clients that have vulnerable children friends or relatives. My clients know that markets drop which is why under my guidance they keep healthy cash reserves so my call is not about money but just to show them that I am thinking of them as people and that I care about there well-being.
  • To our clients, friends, family and neighbours! Considering all of today’s negative global news, particularly that surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, all the other adverse events happening both here in Canada and around the globe. We know that you all have questions regarding the impact on your investment portfolios, this letter is to help you deal with the challenges we all face going forward. We know that at times, the markets can shrug off various events, but at other times, the markets can experience significant fluctuations that can be very hard to stomach! We want to reassure you that the team at <firm> is keeping a close eye on markets and will carefully review the allocation of all new deposits. We have always invested our client funds in high-quality companies, those with proven track records of providing long-term growth that can weather future downturns and come out stronger on the other end. It’s essential not to make knee jerk changes during these volatile market events, as staying invested has historically benefited investors in the long run. Trying to time markets is futile because it’s challenging to know when they have bottomed. The best up days in markets tend to happen just after some of the worst days, at the time when client’s fears are at their highest, and often too paralyzed to get back into the market. In doing so – missing out on those best up days with a significant negative impact on their portfolio’s long-term value. We recommend our clients stay invested over the long-run. We know, staying the course is never easy to do, but we cannot emphasize enough how important it is to build wealth over the long-term. To this end, we want to create a Confidence Index based on how our clients feel about the current negative issues we’re facing. •Confidence: How confident are you that you will reach your primary financial goals? •Control: How confident are you that you can positively impact your financial future? •Clarity: How clear are you about your plans for retirement? Please don’t hesitate to call us or stop in with any questions or concerns, and we know we can’t change what’s happening, but we can at least talk about it and help you all work through this trying and frightening situation.
  • We are here with you, we are the captains of the ship. When waters are calm, you may feel that we aren’t adding value but we are, we are always on the lookout for icebergs and other issues. We had prepared portfolios for shocks like this, though we can’t prevent outbreaks like this happening, we can limit the damage, and we did by raising cash in January and February. Though we aren’t ready to deploy the cash and be on the offense, we are watching for an opportunity to implement.
  • Communicate significant assets in short term bonds. Provide confidence they have resources to meet short and term cash needs. Will be able to ride out the storm!
  • We wrote a blog about viewing extra time available to help others or improve oneself. See: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6645725289588539395/
  • I like high quality equities right now. Companies with sustainable businesses and rock solid balance sheets. Seems like a big earnings drop is already being baked into many valuations now ahead of analyst estimate reductions. And since the visibility on how long this disruption is going to last is foggy, we’re getting an even more significant repricing and buying opportunity in high quality names. I would avoid any companies with high debt to equity ratios since we probably have credit risk ahead.

A process, tool or type of communication you have used with clients:

  • I’ve added a second blog each of the last three weeks solely to discuss the markets and to try and help everyone remain calm.
  • We have written blog posts designed to help clients make sense of what’s going on (what circuit breakers mean, why it’s important to stay invested, etc.) and promoted them through emails and social media. We also offered a webcast where we took questions from clients and answered them in real time. We may continue to do these periodically until things calm down.
  • We have called as many clients as possible (large and small clients) and focused on discussing their 12-24 month income and liquidity needs.
  • Phone, email. Old school reaching out
  • For retirees… it’s where cash flow planning (where they plan to spend in retirement) is the most important. It’s easier to redirect them to it and stay focused on spending what they committed to.
  • Phone, and “MailChimp” as a means to quickly send out a communique to a group, and it allows me to follow who has opened it and identify those who have not.
  • Email communications via Mailchimp and one-on-one meetings or phone calls.
  • Emails, calls, GoToMeetings/Webinars, and of course meetings… now that we are shelter-in-place, we are encouraging (even more than we normally do) to use the video feature of GoToMeetings
  • Letting them vent before discussing our viewpoints or changes to their portfolio
  • Short video message.
  • Person to person telephone calls with all my clients.
  • Bonjoro
  • I have spent the last two days calling my clients, and intend to use the following days to call warm prospects.
  • Constant Contact is key!
  • Zoom Meetings
  • Mailchimp newsletters with a video message, my own content and curated content from other experts and leaders.
  • Telephone, Zoom
  • Communicating by e-mail, letter, Facebook, phone calls working with our local business chat page, articles in the local papers.
  • Allow clients to contact me in whatever way they like anytime of day they like.
  • eMoney asset allocation modeling.
  • Emails, webinars, outbound phone calls and Blog/LinkedIn articles

Thanks for stopping by,
Julie

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about how we help advisors use input from clients to uncover unmet service, revenue and referral opportunities I’d invite you to book a 20-minute demo.  Please click here to find a convenient time.

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