Financial advisors – what should you do now that the sky has fallen?
If you’re a financial advisor, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed because you’re wondering when the bad news is going to stop. The media is not helping. There is unprecedented market volatility! Declining consumer confidence, declining property values and declining share prices. This can really take a toll on you and your ability to think rationally and logically – which is more important than ever right now!
The recommended actions below will help you weather the storm and reposition you for future success.
Connect with your clients – do it now and do it often. Communicate with them in a way that makes sense for you and for them. They probably need a lot more hand-holding now than you do! Think about it from your client’s perspective. What would you want your financial advisor to do? Can you keep them informed and updated with the facts on what’s happening out there? Reassure them and ensure they have all the facts – in the absence of information, it is human nature to assume the worst. You can phone, send emails, newsletters, create podcasts, videos or even host receptions. Connect and reduce the potential for client volatility.
I would recommend that you personally contact your clients. It can be overwhelming so break it down and call or meet your clients in rotation. The more personal time you get with clients, either face time or over the phone, the better. It’s bad enough when the portfolio is not growing but when it is down double digits, clients get understandably irate. The reality is that if the market is down, say 35%, and your client’s portfolio is down 15-20%, it is considerably less than the market. When your client is made aware of this, they will value you even more! This is a client retention (and acquisition) strategy. Other financial advisors may not be contacting their clients because making the call is painful. It can be downright scary but it needs to be done so just do it! You will be happy that you did and your clients will certainly appreciate it. They may even tell others how good their financial advisor is!
Get out! This is not the time to stay in the office and avoid contact with clients and people in general. Like the politicians during election time, you have to get out, meet the people, understand the issues and give them the confidence that you know what you’re doing and are the best person for the job. Join a service organization, volunteer your time and experience to help others and connect with as many new people as you can.
Cut Costs. Identify what is a nice to have versus a need to have. A little saving here and there can add up over time. Are you picking up coffee on the way to work? Why not fill a thermos at home? While you’re at, make yourself some lunch and pocket the savings? Skip the bottled water – tap water is perfectly fine and much more environmentally friendly. Have a movie night at home and save on the parking, movie tickets and snacks. You can watch pay per view, borrow a DVD from your library, rent one or even download a movie to save on gas as well. Try to renegotiate your rent and other ongoing expenses like your phone, cellular and internet services. Don’t cut back on anything that reflects on you or your brand like voicemail, client amenities or office cleaning and maintenance.
Look in a Mirror. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, look at the opportunities and threats and develop a strategy to take advantage of the situation you’re in. What has worked in the past and what hasn’t worked as well as you had expected? Should you run your practice differently? Alter your marketing? Redefine your “ideal client”? Do you have the skills that you need for continued success?
Network with your peers. You can always learn from your peers. That’s why you are (or should be) members of your local financial planning association. Hear about best practices and innovative ideas that other financial advisors might be doing during these tough times. Bounce ideas off of them. Even getting together to discuss the market drop helps you stay on your game. Organize a meetup.
Seek help. Your wholesalers call on many successful advisors and they are a gold mine for information. Vendors, lawyers, accountants, mortgage brokers, and other service professionals in different industries will have an ‘outsiders’ perspective on your business. Ask them for some constructive criticism, learn what other professionals are doing, and brainstorm ideas on what you can do to differentiate and grow during this tight economy.
Invest in yourself. Financial advisors are so busy managing clients, working with their broker/dealers, wholesalers and vendors and staying compliant that they do not have time for self-development. You probably have more time now than ever – use this time wisely so that when things pick up, you are able to grow your business by leaps and bounds. Learn about new technologies, read those inspiring or motivating books that you’ve always said you wanted to do if you had more time. Attend conferences and seminars that will help you in your personal or professional life. Engage the services of a consultant that can help you assess your practice, create the strategies to do things more efficiently and effectively, and see opportunities that you might not see because you’re too close to your business.
Keep marketing. During tough times, the first thing that businesses seem to do is cut their marketing budgets. This is the best time to raise your profile and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Provide information and your expertise (compliant with FINRA and the SEC of course) to local newspapers, radio and TV stations. Offer to speak at a community event. Write a press release with your own tips for coping. Add your comments to blogs (like this one). Create accounts at social networking sites like LinkedIn and include who you are and what you do so that others can get to know you.
Leverage your relationship with wholesalers. Your wholesalers are your one stop resource for market commentary and are often more than willing and able to speak on the state of the market. Their presentation has been created for you, and is probably already approved by FINRA, so there is no need to reinvent the where. Use that content in your marketing but be sure to seek approval from your firm first.
Take care of yourself. As my friend Rita Cheng, CFP, a financial advisor in Maryland USA says: