Article June 3, 2020

Advice from those who have seen stormy weather

For many newly minted financial advisors, this is the first crisis they have gone through. But others have faced stormy times in the past, and they have some advice to give.

“I try to stay positive, but underneath, I’m extremely discouraged by the situation. I just started in the field and I don’t have many clients yet. It’s very hard to get your foot in the door under the current conditions. I’m also looking after my young child at home, which is complicated even though my partner and I share responsibilities,” says a young advisor, who requested anonymity.

This statement is a good representation of the mood of members who are struggling to respond to the challenges raised by the pandemic. While the crisis we are going through is particularly grave, remember we’ve seen several similar situations in the past. Think of the 2008–2009 financial crisis, the 2000 dot-com bubble, the stock market crash of 1987 which generated sky-high interest rates… What have advisors who lived through other crises learned?

Focus on quality of service

“The period we’re going through right now is very difficult for young advisors,” recognizes Flavio Vani, president of Assurance et Produits Financiers Vani, who has worked in the industry for more than 30 years. However, he thinks that the crisis is also a time to play the game well. “I’ve always managed to do well during difficult times. When everything is rosy and yields are satisfactory, clients aren’t interested in changing things. But when everything is going badly, that’s when we can do something different for them,” he points out.

Mr. Vani also thinks it is important to project a positive attitude during these times, emphasize that some sectors of the Stock Market are doing quite well—health, technology, etc.—and be attentive to needs. “It’s a time to ask questions, assess all products held, listen to concerns, reinforce feelings of trust. And when the situation returns to normal, your clients will remember the quality of service you offered them during these uncertain times. They’ll stay with you for a long time,” he says.

Educate and reassure

That’s an opinion shared by Gilles Viel, financial security advisor and mutual funds representative, whose career spans 47 years: “When you enter this profession, you must really make a commitment to your clients, and promise them you’ll be with them for better, but also for worse. It’s kind of like a marriage! When a difficult situation arises, they expect us to truly be there for them,” he emphasizes.

He adds that it is crucial to inform and educate your clients over time, so that they are almost always able to understand and tolerate ups and downs in the market. Regular communication with them is the key to reassuring them, while maintaining good relations.

“For example, in 2008, when the crisis erupted, Industrial Alliance shares went from $40 to $15 in less than a year. I asked my worried clients if they had been on chemin Saint-Louis in Québec City [Gilles Viel’s office is located in that city], and if the IA complex was still there. I wanted to show them that it was a secure investment, the ship was facing a storm but it wouldn’t sink,” explained this sailboat enthusiast.

Investors who kept their assets, strategically allocated according to their needs and investor profile, benefited from profitable years afterward. According to Gilles Viel, commitment, education, presence and quality of service are the pillars which newcomers to the industry must use for support.

Adopt new technologies

Shirley Marquis, partner and senior director, financial and tax planning with SFL Wealth Management, Northwestern Quebec and in the industry since 1998, believes that this is the ideal time to adopt digital technology.

“Things have changed rapidly over the last two years. We were already seeing young advisors using webinar apps to conduct meetings, and others using social media to find prospective clients, the trend has grown with the pandemic. Also, support platforms and software exist to facilitate virtual client meetings. It’s important to adopt these tools because, in the future, I’m convinced that more and more clients, not only millennials, will want to do things remotely,” she believes.

According to Shirley Marquis, this is also the right time for a professional to make themselves known to innovative firms that are looking for advisors who are very comfortable with new technologies. “At the moment, the timing is right for those who have adopted these new practices. You have to seize the opportunity,” she notes.

For additional tips from experienced colleagues, you can also consult the following articles available on the CSF InfoCOVID 19 page:

Tips for getting on top of stress

Good practices to support clients facing difficulties

Dealing with very emotional clients