Article April 14, 2020

COVID-19: a few tips from the syndic’s office

During this difficult time, many advisors are facing complex, and sometimes unprecedented situations. To help you weather the storm, the team at the syndic’s office provides a few recommendations.
  • The work overload you are currently experiencing shouldn’t prevent you from taking the time needed with each client. Rather, it is a time when they especially need empathy and a sympathetic ear due to their high level of stress. Know how to stay available and a good listener to each of them.
  • Avoid doing several things at once, most of all when you are on the phone. Remember that a client who cannot see you can still feel if your mind is elsewhere or if you are doing something else as they are talking to you. That may generate frustration. Adopt the same behaviour on the phone as during a meeting in person.
  • More than ever, be a good teacher, because the better your client understands the situation, the more reassured they will feel. It’s time to remind them of basic concepts about how the economy and markets operate, the composition of your client’s portfolio and the risk level it induces, the work of fund managers, etc. Illustrate your comments with examples, tables, diagrams… while always adapting to their level of financial literacy.
  • Taking notes shouldn’t be left aside, quite the contrary. This task may seem tedious when time is lacking to respond to all requests, but each client file must remain complete and updated at all times. There may come a time when the client will need to remind themselves of the reasons behind certain decisions taken during a period of heightened emotions. These notes will be helpful to you in showing them that you were listening.
  • You probably spend a lot of time on the phone these days. In addition to the notes you will have taken, it is recommended that you summarize the substance of verbal communications in a subsequent email to ensure your clients’ clear understanding. This will help them take a fresh look at your conversation when they are free from distractions, and allow them to confirm their choices in writing.
  • If your client makes a request that does not seem to suit their situation/profile and they don’t want to follow your advice, you must reassure them, remind them of their game plan that you had agreed upon, and warn them as to potential consequences of the changes they are requesting. Ask your client to take the time to think about the conversation in order to delay, and immediately inform your compliance department, as they will guide you through the following steps to take. If your compliance department authorizes the operation requested by the client, keep a written proof of all your conversations and warnings.
  • If a client shows their dissatisfaction with regard to the quality of your services, for example by holding you responsible for the decline of their portfolio’s performance, reassure them by explaining the current economic setting and remind them what had motivated decisions in the past: their investor profile, their risk tolerance, their goals at that time, etc. Then, inform the compliance department, and they will provide the right approach to take. Don’t face the problem by yourself, but don’t sweep it under the rug either. Gather information on all communications, and whatever happens, remain calm and courteous.
  • It’s possible that you feel the investor profile that was established for a client isn’t suitable considering their reactions for example, despite your explanations about the impact of the pandemic and stock market movements on their portfolio, and your attempts to reassure them. In that case, assess the possibility of reviewing their profile and investment strategy, and contact your compliance department, that will guide you through the appropriate steps to take. The current crisis shouldn’t be by itself a reason to make changes to clients’ portfolios, but if their situation justifies it, it could be relevant to do so. Yet again, document all your communications.
  • You are not expected to know everything about everything! Your clients are facing situations that are at times very difficult, emotions are strong for everyone, etc. Remember that your compliance department is here to support you and that CSF provides many tools to guide you and a help line dedicated to ethical issues. Also know how to delegate when the situation falls outside your skill set. Your client will always be grateful to you for directing them toward the right resource. They may however react differently if you talked through your hat.

Refer to our FAQs and our COVID-19 Info page for more information.

You can also ask to be connected with a compliance expert to share on a specific issue with complete confidentiality at: