choice_tease

The planning of this issue started with a series of conversations with fee advisors. All those chats circled back to a common theme: Times like these show the advantages of not having to earn commissions.

That’s no dig at those who do opt for a commission structure. This business is all about choice, starting with the way you choose to earn your living. The rub, though, is that clients are increasingly calling for services that can be low- or even no-dollar transactions—services such as help with debt reduction, tax planning, or a revisitation of the mortgage.

They want to talk about little stuff, which generally doesn’t pay, unless of course you charge for your time. One advisor I spoke with was highly irate about how some of his colleagues are encouraging clients to leverage to invest in light of low borrowing costs. He’s taking a different tack, urging clients with maxed-out credit cards to obtain cheap debt-consolidation loans and get the 19% interest rate monkeys off their backs.

It’s a good strategy for a time when clients need help recovering from bouts of overspending. And he’s adamantly encouraging colleagues to roll up their sleeves on these issues; arguing that solving several small problems is as useful as solving one big one, and can open the door to wider knowledge of a client’s fi nances. In one case, a client raided a child’s RESP, so he’s established a program to help him put that money back.

It’s a good strategy for a time when clients need help recovering from bouts of overspending. And he’s adamantly encouraging colleagues to roll up their sleeves on these issues; arguing that solving several small problems is as useful as solving one big one, and can open the door to wider knowledge of a client’s finances. In one case, a client raided a child’s RESP, so he’s established a program to help him put that money back.

And, a third notes that while he’s seeing very little cashing out right now, clients are taking his advice to rebalance in order to springboard out of the slump faster. In either scenario, detachment is the key.

As the panic fades, clients need your help to move beyond the sticker shock. So, no matter how you choose to earn your living, take a page from the way fee advisors operate. A lot of your clients want nothing so much as an ear and a plan. Make them feel listened to, and translate what they’re saying into holistic actions that can put the struggles of the past six months behind them. Pick up the phone, set up a meeting, and give them the face time. It’s the fiduciary thing to do.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge