Financial advisors aren’t immune to the fear and anxiety around the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has caused on global financial markets. That’s why many firms in the investment industry are placing a greater focus on ways to support their professionals.
From increased communication efforts to ongoing encouragement for advisors to take care of their own physical and mental well-being amid the public health crisis, firms across Canada are offering a wide range of resources to their advisors.
That’s because while advisors are often the sounding board and voice of reason for investors, they also need support to stay focused and help their clients during these uncertain times, industry executives say.
“Most of our advisors are also investors. So, while they’re paid to be objective and help customers through tough times, it doesn’t always mean it’s easy to be an advisor for yourself,” says Dave Kelly, senior vice president of TD Wealth in Toronto, which has more than 2,000 advisors in its brokerage and private-client divisions. “They’re also balancing the very real fears that our clients have around personal safety.”
To stay engaged with advisors during this time, Mr. Kelly says TD Wealth is hosting regular calls and webinars to talk about the evolving COVID-19 crisis and its impact on markets and client portfolios.
“In times like these, sometimes it’s as much about people hearing your voice and less so about the message itself,” Mr. Kelly says.
The firm also has internal online resources in which advisors can access the latest research and information on the pandemic and the markets, as well as advice on how to best communicate with clients.
“The market conversations are real … but it’s not all clients are concerned about,” Mr. Kelly says. “They’re asking, ‘Am I okay?’ more than ‘Is my portfolio okay?’”
Having access to up-to-date resources and talking with other advisors also helps these professionals have better conversations with clients.
“[It helps them] to create more value, the conversation feels better and clients are better served,” Mr. Kelly says. “We have an amazing opportunity to make a difference here for clients and their families for the next number of months. ... If we frame it that way in our heads, the phone gets a lot lighter and we get out and make a real difference.”
Norm Trainor, founder and chief executive officer at The Covenant Group in Toronto, which provides coaching for advisors, says firms need to be proactive with advisors – just as advisors are being asked to be proactive with clients in challenging economic times.
He says it’s particularly crucial during the COVID-19 crisis as most people are being asked to stay inside as much as possible.
“The smart firms are finding different ways to communicate with their advisors and with their clients that doesn’t leave them feeling isolated and alone. That feels that they have support and a sense of community,” Mr. Trainor says.
He also advises firms to use this time to equip advisors with new and updated tools that will help them add value to their relationships with clients.
“It’s a great time to educate your clients,” Mr. Trainor says. “They’re scared. ... People make poor decisions when they’re afraid or anxious. A big part of the advisor’s role is to give people a sense of competence and confidence in dealing with this situation.”
Some of these new tools should enable more virtual communication options, Mr. Trainor says, as this form of communication is expected to become more common even after the COVID-19 crisis is over.
“I think we’re going to see more of it,” he says. “How clients connect with their advisors and institutions is changing.”
As such, Toronto-based Richardson GMP Ltd. has revisited and re-engineered certain policies to better enable advisors to work remotely, says Mike Ankers, the firm’s director of national sales.
These measures include systems that allow advisors to send and receive work phone calls from their smartphones and computers, to conducting live video conferencing. Mr. Ankers says they’re also doing digital approvals to maintain workflow and processes.
“[The] next actions will be to build connections and community internally through digital channels so we share information, be social and maintain our culture of collaboration,” he says
David Gunn, country leader for Edward Jones in Canada, says his firm is also hosting calls and webinars for advisors to keep them updated on what’s happening both internally and externally.
In addition, the company has an online portal for advisors to ask questions, seek resources and offer feedback on what they need and can do to work better with clients during the public health crisis and market downturn.
“It’s a great way for us to hear, down to the minute, what’s on their mind,” Mr. Gunn says.
He says the firm is also doing more to support the health and wellness of its advisors and clients. This includes a dedicated website for advisors as well as a website for clients and their families seeking resources to support mental, physical and financial health.
“They go hand in hand during these times of uncertainty,” Mr. Gunn says.
Mr. Kelly is encouraging advisors to block out some time for themselves every day, whether it’s to exercise or spend time with family, while following social distancing rules and recommendations.
“This is emotionally draining,” Mr. Kelly says. “Just give yourself a break because we need you energized and your clients need you.”