For financial advisors, being social is a key function of their roles. On normal days, a big chunk of their time is spent meeting with prospective and existing clients. Not being able to do that or have a social life outside of working hours because of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll – on some more than others. But most advisors are finding various ways to make the best of the situation.
Thanks to modern-day technology, lack of physical face-to-face contact has not kept advisors from interactions in their professional or personal lives. If anything, conversations have only increased for some since self-isolation measures began.
Galen Nuttall, financial security advisor at Freedom 55 Financial in Belleville, Ont., was conducting most of his client meetings over the telephone or through a webcam long before physical distancing became part of our everyday vocabulary. That’s because he has been running a virtual practice for the past three years. So, for him, the transition into the work-from-home era has been a fairly smooth experience.
“I’ve reached out to every one of my clients to communicate with them about what’s going on,” he says. “I’ve also gone live on my Facebook page and am now putting together more videos for my YouTube channel.”
Still, Mr. Nuttall says he also enjoyed meeting clients occasionally at coffee shops before the pandemic, at which he might chat with the owner and bump into other people he knows. Now that this option is off the table, he’s ramped up the social side of his life in other ways.
“We did a group webcam call with a group of parents the other night. We had the whole ‘Brady Bunch’ grid of webcam images going. Most of us live within a block or two of each other, so it started off feeling a bit odd, but then more natural after a bit,” he says Mr. Nuttall. “It amazed me how refreshing those 45 minutes were, just joking around, watching one parent fumble with the software. After a while, it felt like we were all hanging around a backyard barbecue.”
Susan Evel, owner, financial planner and responsible investment specialist at Edgewater Financial Products in Hamilton, Ont., listens in on webcasts from her suppliers regularly to ensure she stays abreast of the fast-changing details around COVID-19. She also picks up the phone to talk to clients and find out how they’re managing through this situation.
“Clients love when you make the effort to speak with them. We’re all in this together and having a discussion has a calming effect,” she says.
“On a personal level, I still meet a friend for our morning runs on the trail but we stay six feet away from each other. I’m lucky because there are five of us in the house to enjoy meal time, games and other activities,” Ms. Evel says. “I do feel concerned for my single friends and clients because they are at the greatest risk of feeling isolated and lonely.”
Paul Bourbonniere, partner and investment advisor with the Polson Bourbonniere Derby Wealth Management team at HollisWealth, a division of Industrial Alliance Securities Inc., in Markham, Ont., misses the hugs and handshakes of the pre-COVID-19 days. Nevertheless, he believes any meeting – even a virtual one – can be a great experience if it leaves the participants feeling better.
“You can’t limit expression, especially when it’s emotional, but you can direct it into a positive conversation,” he says. “I’m a positive, optimistic person by nature and I like to look forward to things. So, when many of them are postponed indefinitely, I tell myself to shift my focus to those things that I can control.”
As such, Mr. Bourbonniere, who says he has always exercised and eaten healthy, has recently upped his fitness goals a notch.
“My goal race, the Boston Marathon, has been moved back, so I get to run purely for the fun of it. And my family, especially my grandkids, need a positive role model,” he says.
Having a schedule, keeping a positive attitude and knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel is what keeps Elke Rubach, principal at Rubach Wealth in Toronto, going.
“My team is on WhatsApp and we talk all day long. Our calls are scheduled every 30 minutes and if there’s a gap on the calendar, we call our clients to check in on them – even if that means leaving a message,” she says.
“In the grand scheme of things ... [these measures are] needed to save lives. It’s also an opportunity to reset and recalibrate,” Ms. Rubach says. “[In the meantime,] we’re organized and following a schedule. [My] three kids are following their online school, we’re together and using the time that we normally would for commuting to watch movies, bake or play games.”