Already an increasing source of support and information to financial advisors, some asset management firms have stepped up to provide more insights in light of COVID-19 and the ensuing economic fallout.
After stock markets dropped precipitously and caused widespread concern midway through March, Vanguard Investments Canada Inc. quickly got to work to beef up its volatility-related content.
“For us, it was really more of a rapid response model,” says Tim Huver, the company’s head of intermediary sales in Toronto. “The markets were moving very, very quickly. … That really forced us to be nimble and efficient. We reacted much faster than we ever have.”
Leveraging talent across the firm, including its U.S. parent organization, Vanguard Canada moved swiftly to create content – webinars and Q&As, blog posts and video appearances. For perspective on market tumult, the team turned to Joe Davis, chief global economist, Mr. Huver says. For perspective on exchange-traded funds trading and liquidity, the capital markets team team provided insights.
Furthermore, the firm provided advisors with practice management tips and “how to be a calming influence with clients,” he says.
Mr. Huver points out that periods of market turbulence offer an ideal opportunity for advisors to reassert their value to clients through rational, evidence-based insights and well-rounded, reassuring advice. But managing the pressure to do that while adjusting to working from home proved challenging for many; offering content that made this process easier was a way for Vanguard Canada to help.
Tahnya Parachuk, marketing communications manager at Capital Group in Montreal, says the company’s volatility hub she helped launch in March was created with the goal of providing insights and information to advisors as conveniently as possible. Adjusting to life under lockdown came with a steep learning curve; to lessen the burden many were feeling, the firm aimed to provide a helping hand.
“I think that it’s just so important for people to know you’re not alone. There are resources out there to help you, whether it’s getting your work day in order or learning a new skill,” Ms. Parachuk says.
Franklin Templeton Investments Canada is another asset-management firm that ramped up the delivery of its online content for advisors. The firm launched a series of weekly webinars on market volatility midway through March. As the months went by, the webinars began to focus on other topics like wealth transfer strategies for challenging times, preparing for a post-pandemic world and the psychology of referrals.
“I think we’re exceeding 600 advisors on each of these webinars,” says Duane Green, the company’s chief executive officer. “The numbers have just been phenomenal.”
In addition, Franklin Templeton’s advisor-focused investment insights page is being updated regularly with blog posts, research papers and other material relevant to the audience.
Even as parts of Canada re-open and stock markets show signs of rebounding, the firm has continued churning out content. Feedback’s been so strong that Mr. Green says his team is now thinking about how to continue to provide communication virtually.
In particular, they’re thinking about the firm’s annual outlook event that’s held every year in December. While the likelihood the event takes place in-person as usual this year is still up for debate, he’s hoping to incorporate a virtual component either way.
This period of time under lockdown has opened up new doors for what’s possible through a screen. People who couldn’t otherwise make the trip to the event can now take part from afar, which is invaluable for all parties.
“I think we can all agree that it just seems like such a foreign concept to put 400 people into one room right now,” Mr. Green says. “How do we make it a bit of an in-person [event], perhaps now with a broad webinar aspect tied into it?”
To Mr. Huver and his team at Vanguard Canada, this period has offered insight into how much more efficient many parts of day-to-day life in the financial services industry – like client meetings, form signings, and seminars – can be thanks to embracing technology.
While he says there are many advisors currently grappling with “virtual fatigue” and eager to resume in-person meetings as soon as they can, the firm isn’t planning to pare back its online content and communication strategy any time soon.
“I do think that technology will support and complement the sales model going forward,” he says. “It’s created greater dialogue, so we’re looking at how we can use that for more real time support in the future.”