Advisors did a lot of hand holding in 2008 and 2009. And it’s been worth it. The worry’s fading for clients and advisors are able to show the advantages of sticking to the plan. Participants in our 2009 Dollars & Sense roundtable had these thoughts about recent shifts in client relationships:
Kathleen Peace, CFA, CFP, Bennett March of IPC Investment Corp., Toronto: As far as the credit crisis goes, our client base was split three ways. The accumulators were surprised to hear from me and were sympathetic. The late-transition clients—those on the cusp—were the most nervous. These are the clients we’re spending the most time with. The retiree clients were relatively well positioned and able to ride it out. They’re more comfortable now. It helps that the markets are up.
Rob Kelland, CIM, FCSI, Portfolio Manager, Director Wealth Management, ScotiaMcLeod, London, Ont.: Regular meetings are incorporated into our practice, just like a dental office would have. We have them booked a couple of weeks in advance. We do it irrespective of conditions—good markets, bad markets, sideways markets.
Barbara Foy-Pilchner,, VP, Business Development, Invesco Trimark: At invesco Trimark we speak to over 3,300 advisors each week and we also hear from thousands of clients. Earlier this year we conducted some internal research and talked to clients about their satisfaction levels. People, in general, felt they weren’t being communicated with effectively by their advisors during the initial phases of the economic downturn. Based on how the numbers pan out in the survey, it looks like that trust factor has been rebuilt over the course of the last eight months.
Nicole St. Denis,, Investment Associate, ScotiaMcLeod, London, Ont.: The meetings are much easier than they were a year ago. We try to schedule them so the clients anticipate those meetings and know in advance they are coming. We also make regular phone calls just to touch base with them to make sure they know their accounts and portfolios are aligned properly.
Bernie Geiss,, CFP, CLU, RHU, Cove Financial Planning Ltd., North Vancouver, B.C.: When the crunch hit, I would get questions from clients asking me how the advisor was, because they were concerned about him more than the performance of their portfolios. They had a high level of faith in the advisor and were not really interested in increasing the number of meetings. They didn’t see it as necessary or useful under the circumstances.
Rob Kochel,, VP, National Accounts, Invesco Trimark: We had picked up on two things that were happening with clients earlier this year when the markets were in real turmoil: “under communication” in terms of not hearing from their advisor and “over communication.” It wasn’t that they were over communicating in the traditional sense; it was the type of communication. Some advisors were using blanket e-mails and newsletters to explain the economic situation. People were saying, “I get all this information already through the media. I don’t need to hear more about what’s going on. I want my advisor to talk to me.” The clients wanted personalized contact, not “one size fits all” approaches. It didn’t seem at the time that some advisors were communicating effectively.
Cynthia Kett,, CA, CGA, RFP, CFP, Stewart & Kett Financial Advisors Inc., Toronto: The frequency of meetings hasn’t increased all that much, but certainly the phone contact has. Clients wanted reassurance, more than anything; that the sky would not be falling permanently and that they’re going to survive this.
James Taylor, CLU, Financial Health Management, Toronto: I certainly wouldn’t agree that the worries are totally fading; there’s scar tissue now. These market declines have not been experienced since the 1930s. We find a lot of people are hypersensitive right now [DASH] waiting for the next show to drop [DASH] not because it’s going to drop but because that’s what everyone is hearing is going to happen. We’re working to reassure our clients that our programs are positioned for recovery and to protect them to the best we can if any other events occur.
Doug Gleed, VP & Regional Sales Manager, Invesco Trimark: Client calls in to the advisor have dropped over the past seven-to-eight months from what they were a year ago. Advisors seem to be doing a much better job today at client segmentation. If 80% of their revenue is coming from eight clients, they’re doing a great job on focusing on those eight clients. It would almost be a 60/40 split between advisors who are effective at client segmentation, and are doing a good job of it, whereas others still flying a little bit by the seat of their pants.
Eva Froese, PFP, Investment & Retirement Planner, RBC Wealth Management, Calgary: Clients are still worried about how the recession might have impacted their overall investments and goals. But clients, I find, are beginning to focus on the long term now, not just on the short term.
The Advisor Group extends its thanks to the peerless Rogers Business and Professional Publishing Group research team. We particularly wish to thank Senior Research Manager Justin Graham, and Research Analyst Vinod Ramlakhan for their tireless efforts at compiling and dicing this year’s data.
A note on methodology,: The study was conducted on-line with 1,537 adult Canadians who report having a financial advisor between October 29th and November 3rd, 2009. The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.