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Those who start when market and economic conditions are difficult also learn how to make use of available resources quickly.PixelsEffect/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

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A new career as a financial advisor will always come with a learning curve. But for those launching or expanding their practices this year, the reality of prospecting during challenging markets and having to help new clients navigate difficult economic conditions have resulted in more focus on the importance of emotional intelligence and leveraging industry resources and support.

Ann Felske-Jackman, principal, branch development with Edward Jones in Mississauga, says the current conditions might seem unprecedented, but the opportunities and challenges facing those new to the industry aren’t any different than those advisors have experienced in other tough times, such as during the start of the pandemic, the global financial crisis or the bursting of the dot-com bubble.

What these periods often provide new advisors is an early introduction to using different resources and skills than may be required initially in better markets, says Ms. Felske-Jackman, who began her career in financial services in 2009.

“As an advisor, our post-secondary education provides us with foundational knowledge about economics, past markets and how to construct portfolios. But when we start during these times, we really need to leverage emotional intelligence,” she says, which includes conducting a deeper discovery into client goals.

“Advisors who come into the industry during times of market volatility might need to exhibit these behaviours earlier in their careers.”

That allows them to build those deep connections with new clients sooner than they might otherwise, she adds.

They also learn how to make use of available resources quickly. For example, Ms. Felske-Jackman says Edward Jones provides all advisors with access to market volatility teams and strategists who provide information and talking points to help assist and educate clients.

Regardless of whether there’s volatility in financial markets, new advisors are also matched up with mentorship groups within their region where several advisors provide them with support and learning opportunities, she adds.

Relying on mentors

Leveraging the knowledge and experience of a mentor has also been a key part of Jenna Wilmot-Anderson’s transition into the industry this year. In late 2021, Ms. Wilmot-Anderson made the decision to leave the health care sector to join financial services, working with her parents at Wilmot Financial Services Inc. in Fergus, Ont.

Since the start of this year, Ms. Wilmot-Anderson’s father has been been mentoring her while she studies for her life licence qualification program (LLQP) certification. She expects to write the exam in December.

By sitting in on client meetings, she has gained early career insights into the challenges individuals are navigating in this environment, the dedication required to be an advisor, and a valuable understanding of market volatility.

“People will call and say, ‘Should we be pulling our investments out of X, Y and Z and putting it into A, B, C?’” she says.

“So, my dad’s job lately has been to reassure clients and help them understand what’s going on better because it can be scary and difficult.”

Ms. Wilmot-Anderson says it gives her the perspective that it’s not always great and there will be tough times.

‘Put yourself out there’

For Diane Alexander, financial advisor at Dharma Insurance and Investments in St. Andrews, N.B., the downturn, combined with her recent relocation from Calgary, have made it challenging as a newer advisor to bring new clients on board and nurture trusted relationships. In 2021, she took steps toward expanding her insurance practice to include investments and financial advice.

“It has been very, very difficult in this environment to get new clients, especially on the saving and investing side,” she says.

“Here, I’m trying to help people with their savings and they don’t really want to put their money in the markets because all they can see is volatility and they’re nervous.”

Ms. Alexander also meets virtually with clients from Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

Indeed, in mid-October, the Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index – a weekly measure of the mood of Canadians on the strength of the economy, job security, real estate and their financial situation – reached a low not seen since the onset of the pandemic and the 2008 global financial crisis.

At the same time, in this environment, she has found opportunities to provide education to clients and prospects, even though it’s still challenging to run events in person, which she would prefer over educating via social media.

“If you can put yourself out there and do lots of education to address what’s going on in the markets, with interest rates and get yourself in front of people, there are lots of great topics to talk about,” she says.

Ultimately, as Ms. Felske-Jackman says, client goals typically remain true during any market cycle. For all advisors – whether they’ve navigated through a previous downturn or not – continuing to focus on those goals is key to adding value.

“Clients are telling us it’s increasingly important to shift from being experts in the markets to becoming experts in understanding the client’s needs,” she says.

“If we anchor to understanding that client need and take a disciplined approach, that’s going to help us transcend any market ups and downs.”

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