Professionals in the financial industry know that staying positive during market and economic turmoil is essential. Financial advisors should provide hope and clarity to both their clients and their teams, serving as trusted advocates even in times of fear by assuring clients that down markets and volatility are normal and have been accounted for in their financial plan.
Of course, advisors face challenges, too — which is why it’s up to leaders at every level within the organization to have open and transparent conversations with their teams about how the firm plans to weather the downturn and prepare for future growth. Supported — and educated — advisors can provide the same support for their clients. This support rests on two tenets:
Since the pandemic began in 2020, we’ve tried to lead with empathy, understanding that people might not be at their best and may in fact be struggling. Because we often take on our clients’ problems, we’ve learned that having a positive mindset, discussing all ideas and providing resources for wellness inside the firm can help advisors better coach their clients to stay calm, too, and refrain from making impulsive decisions.
For instance, we brought in a mindfulness expert for a half-day workshop where everyone was encouraged to keep a daily gratitude journal. We also provided a meditation app that offered participants challenges related to taking breaks, with the aim of boosting work-life balance. Put simply, advisors with a positive mindset can guide their clients to feel the same way.
First-person testimony is powerful. For example, I started meditating in late 2019 and, after discussing it with my team — and determining they were interested in learning more — I brought them with me on the journey. Many continue to practice on their own.
We educate advisors and clients by giving historical context, reminding them that capitalism has rhythms that we can generally count on. To be rewarded for taking risks, investors need parameters they can feel confident in following. While we don’t know the pace at which things will unfold, we do know things will turn around and the markets will march forward.
Grounding ourselves in this historical context is every bit as important as sharing it with clients. If you’re a seasoned leader who has been through the Great Recession, the dot-com bubble or other turmoil, you might take this for granted, but don’t assume others on your team share the same perspective — or have internalized it sufficiently to share it with their clients.
While the financial repercussions of an economic downturn can be devastating for investors, research shows that those with the foresight to enlist the aid of a financial advisor during a recession are better prepared to weather a downturn or bear market (67%) than those who don’t seek professional guidance (38%).
But even the best-supported clients get nervous. Here are some quick tips to help your team steady their clients’ nerves:
1. Engage them in strategy.
We all feel disappointed when our investments lose value. But remember, 2021 was a great year for the market overall. Help your clients understand the market shifts and put them into strategies that fit their risk level.
2. Provide historical perspective.
Clients are concerned about market volatility and its impact on them and their loved ones, especially those living paycheck to paycheck. However, there is some solace in knowing that it’s happened before, that advisors have solved problems like this in the past, and that clients have come out of it financially sound.
3. Impart a planning mindset.
Focus on helping clients understand needs versus wants and how to cut back expenses. Help families prioritize, even if it means delaying that big vacation in favor of paying down credit card debt, for instance. Tax planning, too, brings certainty to budgets. When people are looking closely at where their money is going, they feel empowered.
4. Have the right tools in place.
Offer clients technology that allows users to track their spending. Put mechanisms in place to help them create budgets, analyze spending and adjust priorities.