Jess Bost, COO, Wealth Advisor
Many people have used the words fear and panic interchangeably over the last couple of weeks. And to be fair, there’s certainly enough of both in the air these days. With terms like “Black Swan,” “Market Crash,” and “Financial Crisis” circulating, investors are not just worried – they are scared.
Because the fear is palpable, they want to do something to feel better. So they take action (a.ka they panic) and they do so inside a market that has the capacity to react quickly to new information.
As a new advisor on board my first “S&P 500 roller coaster,” I’m learning that there are several ways a mature advisor distinguishes themselves among the crowd. Let’s look at few characteristics of strong financial advisors that I’ve observed already.
She leads with planning
Leading client relationships with planning means that the mature advisor has already considered volatility as part of the picture.
It means that her clients’ portfolios are designed to be successful even if the market sees a significant correction. It means that her clients’ goals, dreams, legacies – all the things that are important to them, including their wealth – have been incorporated into the long term strategy of the portfolio.
Furthermore, it means that she and her clients have already discussed this day and what to do when (not if) it came. And now that they’ve arrived here in this place, she and her client know they will continue to do what has already been working: stick to the plan.
She is the first to call
Calling first is actually better framed as a mature person skill, not as an advisor skill. If you think about the people in your life that you trust and respect the most, are many of them not also people that are the first to call you on special days like birthdays, when your kid gets mentioned in the local newspaper, or when you lose your beloved pet?
It seems that people tend to shy away from reaching out when they are unsure of what to say or how to handle a difficult situation. During a time when a potentially fragile client is looking for intensified guidance and support, a mature advisor reaches out first with confidence and clarity.
She provides empathy
Advisors have a very privileged seat during times like this. We understand financial terms and nuances, we’ve studied the history of these market swings, we gather together in conference calls and are surrounded by our niche friends on social media. We are hopeful because we feel much more in control of seeking out the resources needed to survive the ups and downs.
We’ve either created or collaborated on the client’s financial plan, and we can go into our fancy software at any point in time and reassure ourselves with a Monte Carlo analysis. Our viewpoint gives us an incredible advantage, but it can also create the sharpest disconnect if we do not hover back down to earth before connecting with our client.
The old saying, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care,” reigns supreme for the mature advisor in these conversations. My go-to favorite (and very genuine) response is, “Thank you for sharing that with me. What else is on your mind?”
She sets the tone
Feeling afraid isn’t wrong – but it’s not the client’s only option, and mature advisors are prepared to offer other ideas and perspectives. I’ve learned that a great place to build trust is to start by hitting pause: “Hey, ____, can you give me a moment and let me pull up your account so I have everything in front of me?” Then, I literally hit mute. I breathe. I relax. I pull up their plan.
Then I guide. “Hey, okay, I’ve got it. Now ______, the first thing that jumped out at me as I was pulling up your plan was that you are hoping to retire in the next five years. I bet that’s something you’d like to take a look at and make sure you’re still on track for even in moments like this. Let’s take a look at it together.”
An advisor may be the architect of the plan, but a mature advisor know she isn’t the main character living in it. She knows it’s super important to use this moment – just like every other moment leading up to this point – to continue working with her client to define successful outcomes and building a plan that performs to her client’s goals.
She spots the difference between interesting and important
One thing I’ve learned throughout my time in meetings over the past few years is that an advisor will never be prepared to answer every single question that a client could possibly ask. Especially in volatile markets where clients rush to Apple News and Google for instant direction from the media, the mature advisor is carefully considerate of new information that is brought up in conversation, and challenges/guides clients to be critical thinkers for their future.
A great question I’ve learned that can help guide meaningful discussion back to the client’s planning goals (and away from fear and uncertainty of uncontrollable market returns) is: “That is interesting…but is that important?” The mature advisor continues to focus the conversation around what is important to the client and controllable as an outcome.
Here to Listen
Finally, I’m cozying up to the idea that being a mature advisor does not mean any of these things come easily, or that these conversations always go smoothly. Guiding a client through one of the most stressful, scary moments of their financial lives – when they genuinely fear their dreams may be slipping away – requires professionalism, skill, and leadership.
Contrary to what our insecurities may whisper, in times of crisis a “know-it-all” advisor is not in demand. Instead, clients seem to be looking for something more transcending – a connection to and belief in the advisor’s guidance, her trustworthiness, her constant desire for improvement, and her willingness to provide hopeful honesty.
Mature financial advisors are in demand now more than ever.
Need to talk your plan through with an advisor? Get in touch today!
Disclosure: The opinions are those of the writer, and not the recommendation or responsibility of CWM, LLC.