As the Coronavirus pandemic has caused significant economic disruption around the world, financial advisors have been faced not only with the daunting challenge of not only how best to stay abreast of the rapidly evolving legislative landscape offering assistance to individuals and businesses in need of financial relief but also in how best to assess which clients are most urgently in need of response and critical financial care.
In our 33rd episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and financial advisor communication expert Carl Richards talk about these challenges, and how despite the deluge of new legislation evolving seemingly every week, the most important thing for advisors to do during these difficult times is to maintain confidence as the experts and leaders that their clients rely upon (whatever the requisite expertise of the week may be). Because the confidence of an advisor doesn’t need to based on a mastery of the current legislative provisions available to clients alone; instead, linking one’s confidence to the ability to engage with the client – in the process of meeting with them, understanding their problems, and then developing a solution – is more effective, as these are the aspects of the relationship that clients ultimately value most.
This is not to say that the information itself is not important; on the contrary, having networks (e.g., a circle of trusted experts who have collectively agreed to help each other find answers for their respective clients) and organized systems to obtain and share information (e.g., collecting relevant documents and website links, and then posting those resources to a webpage on your website that is available to clients as a resource) can help advisors stay informed themselves, and to disseminate crucial information quickly to clients who may be in critical need of guidance.
For advisors who have too many clients who need immediate attention such that they cannot get back to all of them immediately, a triage strategy can help them determine which clients they should help first. By ranking clients’ issues in terms of the risk of failure those issues pose for the client (but obviously not necessarily telling the client they are being ranked!), advisors can help clients tackle issues that are the biggest threats to their clients’ financial well-being. And by organizing a three-step communication system of 1) responding to all clients initially, 2) setting clear expectations around when they can get a deeper response (especially if the client isn’t ranked first in the triage-ranking system), and then 3) following through with each client accordingly, advisors can ensure that all their clients are getting the attention and service they need to stay successful.
Ultimately, the key point is that advisors have access to networks to help them keep up with new information being released on a daily basis, and also easily accessible tools that can help them share that information quickly with their clients. More importantly, though, advisors should remember that, while clients may value the technical information their advisors provide to them, the real value clients derive from the relationship is their advisors’ ability to engage and connect with them, and to provide the leadership they need to stick to their financial plans!