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There may be quieter than usual moments and time to reflect between small family gatherings during this holiday season. For financial advisors, this may be a time to pause and reflect on the lessons we learned in 2020.
As I pondered plans for our consulting firm in 2021, I wrote down the lessons from that year and found five that apply to our roles as advisors, investors and leaders in this profession:
1. New perspectives
2. Average return
As of this writing, the S&P 500 index is up 12% for the year, slightly above its historical annual average. But who would call 2020 the average? This year’s stock market got “average” from upset stomach and skeptical climbs. It takes time and patience, often over the years, to produce average returns. Consultants had an opportunity this year to show value by getting their clients invested and avoiding the real enemy of average return: investor emotions.
3. Unexpected catalysts
For many families, financial planning stands in the background until it is urgent. Since July, when people felt they could look up and assess the situation, our company has received more in-depth inquiries about planning and investments than ever before. This terrible pandemic has an unexpected benefit: it makes people want to get their financial houses in order. As a consultant, expect the unexpected – and be prepared for it – and be ready to take action to help your clients.
4. No excuses
Too often, consultants apologize for their clients. They assume that customers don’t understand, adapt, or change. This is a quote from a 2016 PwC study on digital adoption in wealth management:
“I think the part that is a bit over-subscribed is that there is this whole generation that wants to act digitally. I think when the people who act digitally now – ie the millennials – are 50 years old, they will act like 50 -year. They’ll be 50-year-olds more digitally conscious than today’s 50-year-olds, but they’ll still be 50, right? I think we need to realize that.
– Anonymous CEO of an asset management company.
Think of all the people you know over 50 and for whom the digital experience is an indispensable part of family life today. Financial advisors have the opportunity to rethink and not resist their client experience in terms of their clients’ willingness to adopt new methods. In this pandemic, customers are showing that they are ready to move forward with their advisors.
5. Build compassion
Most conversations with customers over the past few months have started with: “How are you really?” The answers were more than what’s new with the kids or what the holiday plans are. It’s deep explorations into what it feels like to be stuck at home and how our lifestyles have changed to foster the relationships we value most. It’s deep, and if a consultant has been used to leading with performance or shaky data points, this can be a challenging linchpin.
Now is the time for consultants to make it easier for them to ask meaningful life questions and set new expectations for what you discuss with your clients.
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It goes both ways. I appreciate clients who ask me how my kids adapt to school and how I feel about so much insecurity. Sometimes a profession grows as it expands its knowledge base. The pandemic is an opportunity for counselors to grow by deepening our compassion.
When financial advisers take the time to ponder these and other observations, planning for the year ahead comes into focus. If you take the time to write these down and share them with your team and clients, you can open a dialogue about how this experience can make you stronger.
Next year could be equal parts the continuation of Covid-19 and the post-pandemic recovery. As a trusted financial advisor, success in guiding clients through this transition may depend on how well we apply the 2020 lessons.
– By Dennis Morton, Founder and Director of Morton Brown Family Wealth