Although “real” (i.e., holistic and comprehensive) financial planning encompasses far more than “just” investments, for better or worse, clients look to their financial advisors as people who are (at least) more knowledgeable than your average bear in regards to “the market.” Because, while providing advice on a client’s portfolio is just one part of the ongoing financial planning process, it’s natural for clients to worry about their investments (or more generally, their assets) and look to their advisors for reassurance that their life savings is being looked after… especially when the financial media consistently bombards them with clickbaity doom-and-gloom headlines. Which, in turn, leads to the question: should advisors send their clients market commentary to demonstrate the advisor’s expertise and try to soothe their nerves… or does doing so just risk making them focus even more on investment issues?
For our 12th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and financial advisor communication expert Carl Richards sit down to discuss if sending market commentary to clients actually helps solve any problems (or if it’s just a relic of a product-centric industry), what sorts of clients benefit the most from proactive communication (and why), and ultimately, why sending investment market commentary to clients may be a good thing to do… even if the majority of your clients never even read it!
As a starting point, though, it’s important identify the problem that advisors are really trying to solve by sending market commentary to clients, and for the types of clients that advisors tend to serve. Because the reality is that, no matter what advisors send, those clients who are true delegators (and hired an advisor in the first place so they didn’t have to be bothered with keeping track of their investments) won’t be interested. However, many clients – even those who delegated their portoflios – do feel like they need to “check in,” at least from time to time, to be reassured that they made the right decision when they hired the advisor to tend to their life savings. Which often manifests itself by the client asking about current market affairs… not because they really care, but because they want to know that their advisor is really “on top of things.” And not only is it a good idea to make sure the advisor can answer their questions, but regularly sending out commentary is a good way to proactively address whatever the topic du jour may be once (rather than fielding potentially dozens of identical phone calls on the same investment concern).
Meanwhile, as client relationships mature over time, meetings naturally become less frequent (as trust levels have developed, and most of the early planning heavy lifting has already been done), so simply staying in touch even by sending out bulk emails with the advisor’s “commentary” can help prevent the dreaded transfer paperwork from landing in the inbox. As no matter how much we’d like to think we’ve “trained” our clients to stay focused on the big picture and ignore short-term market fluctuations, the reality is that sudden spikes in volatility will cause clients’ loss aversion instincts to perk up.
Ultimately, though, the key point is simply to realize communicating with clients outside of their regular meeting rotation matters, and sending them some form of investment commentary (whether it be from a third party or written in-house) is a great way of providing reassurance that you are versed in whatever may be going on in the market at any given time. Even if you always wind up with the same conclusion, which is that your clients are properly allocated and are served best by sticking with the plan you’ve developed with them.