In the eye of the storm financial planners steer a steady course


Peter Dawson

Financial planning firms have weathered storms in the past, but nothing like what we are currently experiencing. In this challenging time advisers are faced with a raft of additional operational issues while keeping focused on their clients, providing them with the advice and support they require.

The changing environment

Throughout the industry there has been a significant increase in client communication with advisers mounting the phones and using communications technology to reassure clients that not only their investment strategies are sound, but they are there for them. Often this requires an empathetic approach talking through the challenges clients are facing, not just in terms of their financial situation, but in their professional and personal lives.

In this time of heightened emotion, clients are watching local and overseas events ever more vigilantly, often with great trepidation. Investment markets have witnessed considerable volatility which there is no end yet in sight and this has led to anxiety with clients seeing declines in the value of their investments. This anxiety has been further exacerbated by social restrictions, which have cocooned families, physically isolating them from extended family and friends.

Client’s personal stories resonate with advisers

Advisers are hearing clients concerns about the welfare of their families where they are facing critical decisions about their children and elderly parents. They relate stories of parents with pre-schoolers having to reassess their child-care options with those usually depending on their parents to help them having to revert to full time carers while juggling their work obligations. There has been considerable stress with working parents at home with toddlers doing what they do while parents are on Zoom trying to actively engage in business meetings.

Advisers have also related stories of clients with school age children and the challenges they face getting them in to a routine that has them using their computers to enter the classroom. Almost universally there would seem to be more appreciation of the work of teachers as clients take on a hands-on role with home schooling. Older clients who are grand parents have had to relinquish their role as carers and this has been difficult to come to terms with although many have taken to Zoom and Skype to keep in touch.

Some advisers reported discussions with clients regarding communications technology options particularly with their older clients, however a number noted that this was sometimes challenging with some clients experiencing difficulties in making technology work for them. Other clients who haven’t access to this technology or think it is beyond them find themselves in a position they never expected to be in with their phone becoming their lifeline.

Those that have lost their jobs and those business owners who’ve had to pare back their operations letting staff go, or even worse closing their businesses are shell shocked by these events and often their first port of call is to their adviser who can help them navigate their way through the options available to them. Many of those now without work have never experienced unemployment and find the challenges of dealing with their situation unsettling if not frightening.

Advisers supporting role

Uncertainty increases stress levels and dwelling on what lies ahead can be poisonous for isolated individuals, so it is crucial that they have support they need to get them through this challenging period. While advisers aren’t psychologists, they do play a counselling role, bringing perspective and offering sage advice to conversations with their clients. Advisers not only have financial planning expertise but are good listeners and can help bring calm to the lives of those who are feeling adrift in this storm.

Financial planning has always been a relationship business, building trust with clients being the cornerstone of successful advice businesses. Advisers are listening to their client’s stories whether they are the parent struggling to home school their children, the grand parents who can no longer be directly involved in the care of their grandchildren, the business owner who has had to close their business or the employees who no longer has a job.

Many of the stories their clients are telling them are familiar to advisers, as they are hearing similar stories from their friends, industry colleagues and employees as well as experiencing these challenges in their own lives. This helps them understand their client’s problems and enables them to take a sympathetic role in helping their clients navigate the current situation.

Advisers have a history of playing an active role in times of disaster including the recent past with the drought and the catastrophic destruction from the bushfires. This pandemic has wide-spread effects on people’s lives as it reaches directly into every corner of our society causing economic loss and social isolation.

Advisers are making sure they play their part in supporting their clients, ensuring that they are in constant communication with them offering them guidance and reassurance and it’s their steadfast commitment that will help them steer a steady course through this storm.

By Peter Dawson



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